Have you noticed how the more popular something becomes, the more people criticize it? Haughty hipsters embody this: “The only thing worse than no one sharing my interest is too many people taking an interest.” Moronically, sometimes the majority of the naysayers have never even experienced the very thing they so swiftly criticize. We’ve all done it. Lame. Blows. Overrated. Just because.
Of course, there are downsides to “overcrowding” and all the problems that come with it. This wave pool for instance. But often times, popular things are more than deserving of their widespread recognition and accepted contributions.
Take France, America, China, Spain and Italy, for example—the five most visited countries in the world. Despite their crowds and high peak rates, here’s why they are so beloved by tourists and likely to remain at the top of the travel charts for years to come.
84 million annual visitors
Every European country is unique. But France might be the most distinctive. Admittedly, its convenient location in the world’s third most populated continent undoubtedly pads the numbers. But France’s collective embrace of fashion, outstanding art, fine dining and wine (not to mention its varied landscapes) is the reason people come here. In short, France is proof there’s a romantic in all of us.
75 million annual visitors
If France is a lover, the U.S. is a fighter. It’s also arguably the most geographical, cultural and welcoming country on the planet. Fifty subcultures acting as one. The original gangster of national parks. The epicenter of entertainment, innovation and capitalism. Inventor of the open road. A place where both believers and secularists are protected. She has her problems. But the dream is still alive.
65 million annual visitors
The sunny weather, sandy beaches and indulgent behavior are undoubtedly a big draw. So is the festive energy, football, flamenco, tapas, paella and brutal bullfighting. Renowned for its architecture, exotic traditions and friendly inhabitants, it’s no wonder why Spain has so few enemies.
56 million annual visitors
If Africa is the cradle of mankind, China is the cradle of civilization—at least the only surviving one. Which is why so many people visit it. China invented money, gunpowder, chopsticks (and the fork), calligraphy, restaurant menus, the compass, holistic healthcare and most importantly, toilet paper. The iconic, now symbolic, Great Wall was meant to deter foreigners. But we keep finding our way in.
49 million annual visitors
Is there a more passionate country than this? Probably not. You’ll instantly realize this by observing two or more conversing Italians. That enduring passion is precisely why so many outsiders head for Italy and largely to blame for some of the country’s greatest hits: Renaissance art, the Colosseum, pizza, espresso, streets made of water, mascarpone, the opera. Nothing can keep guests away. Ciao bella!
Photo: James Whitesmith, CC-BY
Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Follow him on Twitter.