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World's 10 most popular tourist destinations (and their future rivals)

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© PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images Picture of a flowering tree near the Eiffel tower taken on April 14, 2013 in Paris. (Photo credit should read PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images)

By Karla Cripps, CNN

Those hoping their favorite global city will be a bit less crowded the next time they visit are in for a disappointment.

International tourism growth shows no signs of slowing, according to the just-released United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) 2018 Tourism Highlights Report.

Global tourist arrivals grew 6.8% in 2017, hitting 1.32 billion. That's 84 million more travelers than the previous year, the highest increase since the 2009 global economic crisis hit.

Though this means those crowds around the Mona Lisa won't be thinning at the Louvre any time soon, it's good news for a number of destinations that have been suffering from security challenges or recovering from natural disasters in recent years.

The report attributes the growth to an economic upswing, resulting in strong outbound demand from major source markets. Simply put, many of us have more money to burn on plane tickets.

"The recovery of outbound demand from Brazil and the Russian Federation after a few years of decline and the ongoing rise of India, also contributed to inbound growth in many destinations," says the report.

And things aren't slowing down, either. Available data for early 2018 shows a year-on-year increase of 6% in arrivals between January and April, says the UNWTO.
International Tourist Arrivals in 2017

So which countries attracted the lion's share of those travelers? France leads the way, receiving 86.7 million international tourists in 2017, followed by Spain at 81.8 million.

Here's the top 10:

1. France -- 86.9 million

2. Spain -- 81.8 million

3. United States -- 75.9 million

4. China -- 60.7 million

5. Italy -- 58.3 million

6. Mexico -- 39.3 million

7. United Kingdom -- 37.7 million

8. Turkey -- 37.6 million

9. Germany -- 37.5 million

10. Thailand -- 35.4 million

The above list focuses purely on arrival numbers, not to be confused with tourism receipts -- the amount international inbound visitors spent, including payments to national carriers for international transport.

When it comes to cash, the United States received the most of it -- $210.7 billion -- in 2017. Rounding out the top 10 are Spain, France, Thailand, UK, Italy, Australia, Germany, Macau (China) and Japan.

As for which country's citizens spent the most in 2017, China continues to lead global outbound travel expenditures, spending a whopping $257.7 billion in 2017.

Coming in second is the United States, with its citizens spending $135 billion while traveling abroad last year. It's followed by Germany, the UK, France, Australia, Canada, Russia, South Korea and Italy.
Fastest growing tourist destinations in 2017

The biggest surprises can be found in the list of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in 2017, based on available data.

Egypt continues to recover from recent years of political unrest, leading the way with growth of 55.1% in 2017 international arrivals over the previous year.

"Visitor numbers rebounded from both traditional markets in Western Europe and emerging markets in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia," says the report of Egypt's big comeback. "Promotional efforts and a return of confidence contributed to this recovery."

Other up-and-comers on the list include Vietnam, Georgia and Nepal:

1. Egypt -- 55.1%

2. Togo -- 46.7 0%

3. San Marino -- 31.1%

4. Vietnam -- 29.1%

5. Georgia -- 27.9%

6. Palestinian territories -- 25.7%

7. Niue -- 25.4%

8. Nepal -- 24.9

9. Israel -- 24.6%

10. Northern Mariana Islands -- 24.3%

For more facts and figures on international tourism in 2017, check out the full UNWTO report here.

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