As the world’s largest and most populated continent, Asia is an incredibly diverse place with a wide range of popular travel destinations. In this post we will run down the five most visited countries in Asia according to official UN figures for global tourism. The figures quoted are for 2018 as some countries have not published their data for 2019 yet.
Top 5 Most Visited Countries in Asia
1. China – 62.9 million visits (in 2018)
China is officially the most visited country in Asia and by some margin. Whilst emerging as a 21st Century superpower, China has invested hugely into its travel infrastructure. Cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have become increasingly international but the country also has an abundance of history, not to mention many areas of outstanding natural beauty.
It should though be pointed out that China’s figures according to the official UN data includes those for visitors from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, which some may regard as domestic rather than international travel.
2. Thailand – 38.2 million visitors
Given that last point about how China’s figures are calculated, it may be more accurate to refer to Thailand as Asia’s top tourist destination. With its vibrant capital Bangkok and so many amazing beaches and islands, Thailand is pretty well established as one of the world’s most popular places to travel to with a hugely popular backpacking trail. However many of its main destinations have become increasingly crowded in recent years, with international arrivals into Thailand more than doubling since 2010. This has largely been the result of a big increase in people travelling to Southeast Asia from China and other parts of Asia.
3. Japan – 31.2 million visitors
Japan is another country that really has seen a surge in visitors in recent years with annual tourism arrivals increasing from under 10 million in 2010 to over 30 million by the end of the decade. With an outstanding high-speed train network, the ease of getting around helps draw in visitors while its unique mix of ancient history and ultra modern 21st Century living gives the country many qualities which few countries can really compare to. Japan is though quite expensive to visit, certainly compared to Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia.
4. Hong Kong – 29.3 million visitors
Hong Kong has long been one of the most international cities in Asia with huge numbers of business travellers flying in and out every day. With over 500,000 tourists entering every week, there are large numbers of visitors in Hong Kong too, although again this does include travellers from mainland China, some of whom may only come for a day-trip if they live near the border area. Hong Kong attracted 29.3 million visitors in 2018 although their figures for 2019 did showcase a significant drop to 23.8 million, most likely the result of the growing civic unrest.
5. Malaysia – 25.8 million visitors
Rounding off the top five is Malaysia, which much like neighbouring Thailand boasts many beautiful beach resorts that are the main driving force behind its tourism industry. While some adventure-seeking travellers do head to the island of Borneo which Malaysia shares with Indonesia and Brunei, most visit Peninsular Malaysia which as well as its many beautiful coastal regions, is home to tropical forests and a number of really interesting cities, most of which are very multi-cultural with British, Chinese and Indian influences all very evident.
The top ten most popular destinations in Asia concludes with Macao (18.5 million), India (17.4 million), UAE (15.9 million), Vietnam (15.5 million) and Saudi Arabia (15.4 million). The inclusion of the latter in this list is a sign of the country’s bid to move away from oil-dependency by enticing tourists and it is now one of the most visited countries in the Middle East, jumping ahead of the likes of Egypt in recent years.
This article was published in May 2020 although the figures relate to the 2018 calendar year.