European countries are famous for their rich and unique cultures, a plethora of historical sites, and pristine nature. However, not all countries in the continent have been successful in developing a thriving tourist industry. While the Western European countries have attracted the bulk of the tourists to Europe, most countries in southeastern and eastern Europe have struggled to establish a steady tourist inflow. It is not a paucity of attractions but the lack of proper tourism infrastructure that has impeded the growth of tourism in these countries. In recent times, however, many of these countries have improved the tourist facilities and experienced rapid growth in tourism. The fastest-growing tourism industries in Europe have been mentioned below.
Armenia is the eighth fastest-growing destination in Europe with its popularity growing by the day. Historical riches, awe-inspiring monuments, amazing landscapes, and welcoming locals make Armenia an attractive place for tourists.
7. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina have it all to attract the curious traveler. There is unspoiled nature and there is an extravaganza of historical and cultural sites. Ottoman architecture, mosques from the 16th century, vibrant street art scene, the spectacular waterfalls at Kravica, mountain villages, and more, draw tourists to this country. It is the seventh fastest-growing tourist destination in Europe.
6. The Republic of Moldova
Tourism in Moldova is just nascent but experiencing a quick growth every year. For years, Moldova has been tagged as the least visited country in Europe. But that is changing. The resurgence of Moldovan culture, the pristine natural beauty of the Moldovan countryside, and its burgeoning wine scene are all contributing to the rise in popularity of this small landlocked Eastern European nation.
An abundance of cultural and natural attractions makes Macedonia a country with great potential to attract tourists. However, for years this country has received very low visitor numbers. In 2017, only 631,000 tourists arrived in Macedonia. Things are, however, changing as evident by the fact that Macedonia is now the fifth fastest-growing tourist destination in Europe. The historical sites in the capital city of Skopje, the shores of Lake Ohrid, Macedonia’s three national parks and 33 nature reserves are some of the tourist attractions in the country.
A land of dramatic landscapes with vast highland lakes, towering waterfalls, and underground hot springs, Iceland is at the top of the bucket list of millions across the globe. The tourist arrivals in Iceland have thus multiplied by 450% since 2010. The tourism industry has also tapped this growth to create world-class luxury infrastructure including posh hotels, restaurants, bars, spas, and more to cater to the demands of the tourists. Itineraries in Iceland offer exotic experiences like heli-yoga on the top of a volcano or meditation in glacial caves.
Although Turkey’s tourism industry has been on a rollercoaster ride for decades due to political turmoil and economic woes, it has been booming in recent times. In 2018, the tourism industry of the country experienced a 24.14% growth making it one of Europe’s fastest-growing countries in tourism. Istanbul was the seat of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires for centuries. It has numerous historical and cultural tourist attractions like the Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia, Dolmabahçe Palace, Spice Bazaar, Grand Bazaar, and others. Turkish cuisine is also famous worldwide. The authentic versions of many internationally popular dishes can be enjoyed here.
Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe in the Caucasus region, Georgia is the second-fastest-growing European tourist destination. It comes as no surprise to travel experts as Georgia harbors a selection of gorgeous historical sites and is famous for its unique cuisine. Added to that is the recently developed tourism infrastructure in the country that features ultra-cool hotels, restaurants, and bars in the capital of Tbilisi. The numerous cathedrals, monasteries, forts, museums, gardens, and parks of Georgia are its major attractions. The country has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites - the Gelati Monastery, Upper Svaneti, and Historical Monuments of Mtskheta. With 40% of Georgia’s territory being covered by forests including 25% protected as national parks, tourists to the country can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, boating, birdwatching, sport fishing, etc., offered in such nature areas. Georgia is also one of the world’s oldest winemaking regions and the activity is ingrained in the country’s culture.
1. San Marino
A medieval microstate with an area of just 61.2 square km, San Marino is based on a cluster of mountain peaks with Italy surrounding it. In 2017, there were two visitors for each of the 33,000 residents of San Marino making it one of the few countries in the world where visitors outnumber the locals. San Marino is a favorite destination of stamp and coin collectors as some of the local versions are on high demand. Despite its small size, San Marino also has a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Historic Centre and Mount Titano. The fortification towers, gates, bastions, and the neo-classical basilica of the site are major tourist magnets. Monte Casino’s three marvelous castles also capture the visitor’s eye.