28 October 2019
Spain has been named the best country in the world for travel and tourism in 2019 in the World Economic Forum’s latest annual survey.
That’s an impressive title to achieve just once, but the European country has managed to bag the title every year since 2015.
España fended off competition from the likes of Australia, Japan and Canada to secure the accolade yet again after seeing its popularity bolstered by a world-class ranking in natural and cultural resources – notably its vibrant cities and sunny beaches, as well as a diverse cultural programme that spans medieval festivals to contemporary art.
Infrastructure was another key factor, with Spain rating highly after investing millions of euros in the past decade on updating roads, railways and airports. Travel and tourism contribute 5% towards Spain's overall GDP, a figure that looks set to rise over the next decade.
All very interesting you may be thinking, but which other countries are up there for travel and tourism? Well here’s the top ten…
Why it’s great for tourists: Geneva may be best known as a centre for banking and diplomacy, but its hip Carouge suburb offers more bohemian charms including laid-back café terraces, independent art spaces and farmers’ markets. From Geneva you can also hop aboard boat-trips across the lake, against a backdrop of Mont Blanc.
Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, is another financial hub but one with a delightful riverside Old Town, waterfront promenades, and wakeboarding and water-skiing on its own sparkling lake.
What to see: The Matterhorn and Lake Geneva
Take your pick from Europe’s largest Alpine lake or one of the highest mountains in the Alps.
Why it’s great for tourists: As the second largest country on the planet, it might be quicker to explain why Canada isn’t great for tourists. It has untouched wilderness landscapes, wonderful wildlife, majestic mountains, pristine lakes and gorgeously dramatic rocky coastlines; all begging to be explored. Its urban offering is just as unmissable too, with a whole host of vibrant cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Then there’s the phenomenal food, such as the marvellously messy poutine, the synonymous maple syrup and the sensational seafood from the prawns and salmon to the shellfish and lobster.
Where to stay: Fox Hotel and Suites, Banff
Offering a contemporary twist on classic mountain accommodation, this homely hotel sits a short walk from the downtown district and features a very convincing cave spa. It’s also the perfect starting point for an adventure on board the Rocky Mountaineer.
Why it’s great for tourists: With world-famous sights such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Rome’s Colosseum, Italy is unquestionably one of Europe’s must-see destinations.
It has history with Rome and its ancient ruins, one of the world’s fashion capitals in the shape of Milan, romantic gondola rides in Venice, and Naples - the spiritual home of pizza.
Where to stay: Ca'Sagredo, Venice
Step back into the Venice of yesteryear at Ca’Sagredo, a multi award-winning five-star boutique hotel situated in a fifteenth century palace, set on the banks of the iconic Grand Canal.
Live like Renaissance royalty, surrounded by luxurious trappings like ornate frescoes, marble statues, rich fabrics and gilt mirrors. Every room at Ca’Sagredo is just as decadent, serving as an extravagant retreat for luxury seekers where you can relax amid bespoke period furnishings and classic Venetian stylings whilst watching life unfold beyond your window.
Why it’s great for tourists: This vast land of discovery and adventure has everything from incredible red deserts and rock formations to coastal beauty and thriving urban centres.
The land down under is home to a plethora of UNESCO World Heritage sites, cities jam-packed with must-see sights, shorelines studded with golden beaches stretching as far as the eye can see and stunning natural attractions including tropical rainforests and Queensland’s headline act - the natural masterpiece of the Great Barrier Reef.
Where to stay: On the road…
A country as vast and diverse as Australia demands to be explored and it’d be a sin not to seize the opportunity to embark on a self-drive tour of the country.
Touch down in Brisbane and experience the Sunshine Coast where you’ll experience the laidback Australian lifestyle centred round pristine beaches, freshwater rivers, lakes and subtropical forests. Visit Steve Irwin’s famous Australia Zoo, before exploring the Gold Coast - known for its sun, surf, shopping and theme parks. Other stop-offs over a 14-day tour can include Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Hunter Valley, before the big Sydney climax.
Why it’s great for tourists: Not always the most obvious place for a vacation, the UK clearly boasts global appeal amongst international tourists.
Part of that has to be down to London with its world-class attractions, but there’s plenty of low-key charm in spots such as Cornwall, which is blessed with world-class beaches, incredible wildlife and amazing food with several Michelin starred restaurants and its traditional Cornish pasty, which is a local favourite. Pembrokeshire, Belfast, Anglesey and the Hebrides also featured in our recent rundown of top UK holiday spots.
What to see: A trip to Cornwall can include a gorgeous garden one day, a gallery or museum the next, while more active types will be spoilt for choice with surf schools, boat trips, cliff top walking, and cycling all possibilities.
Why it’s great for tourists: Because it doesn’t get much bigger or brasher than in the good ol’ US of A. Any newcomer could easily spend a week exploring the vast cities of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, going wild in Las Vegas or experiencing the natural wonder that is Grand Canyon National Park.
Where to stay: Again, on the road
With so much to see and do, a self-drive tour is a great way to tick off all the first-time essentials. Unwrap the Golden State of California from the highs of the stunning Yosemite National Park, to North America’s lowest point in Death Valley. Or cross the country with a Route 66 adventure from Chicago to LA.
Why it’s great for tourists: There's no place on earth quite like Japan. This enigmatic country manages to perfectly balance the best of both the ancient and modern worlds, making it a perpetually intriguing place to explore.
Appreciate Buddhist temples from the 7th century (Sensō-ji), swoon over a vast collection of seasonal flowers (Hamarikyu Garden), visit the buzzing electronics and anime district of Akihabara, venture out to be awed by the mighty Mount Fuji - and that's just a short stay in the capital...
Where to stay: St. Regis Hotel Osaka
Osaka – one of Japan’s largest cities - might not be the natural choice for a relaxing break away but the St. Regis Hotel Osaka was named Japan’s Best Luxury Hotel Spa at the 2018 World Luxury Spa Awards.
Sat on the 14th floor of the hotel, the Iridium, featuring Sothys spa, serves as a sublime retreat and a welcoming oasis of pampering in the most inviting of urban settings. Its Japanese décor is infused with French influence, while its luxurious service and treatments are carried out by aestheticians trained by acclaimed therapists from the Sothys Institut de Beauté in Paris.
Why it’s great for tourists: Because for city breaks, it’s hard to beat. There’s the perennially hip Berlin, with everything from beach bars on the banks of the Spree and world-famous super-clubs to classic Soviet architecture and compelling historic sights to take in.
Meanwhile, dynamic Hamburg is home to more than 50 museums, 100-or-so live music venues and clubs, including a state-of-the-art concert hall, harbour boat trips and a lively fish market. It’s also the gateway to Germany’s lovely North Sea coasts, as well as Heide Park - one of Germany’s largest theme parks. The financial hub of Frankfurt has its own world-famous son to celebrate in its Goethe House Museum, while Düsseldorf is brilliant for shopping due to its fashion houses and thriving artistic scene.
Where to stay: Adlon Kempinski, Berlin
Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin sits a stone’s throw away from arguably Berlin’s most famous landmark - the Brandenburg Gate - and is surrounded by exclusive boutiques, galleries and theatres, and must-see attractions such as The Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie and Parisier Platz. Dine on dazzling interpretations of classic haute cuisine in the two Michelin-starred Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer or leave the world behind in the Adlon Spa by Resense.
Why it’s great for tourists: Idealised by millions all over the world, dreams of French holidays often involve champagne on the Eiffel Tower, cruises on the Seine, bicycling through wine country and exploring the resorts of the Côte d’Azur.
Outside of the romance and sophistication of Paris, the French countryside is peppered with more than 40,000 castles and chateaus, as well as dozens of ski resorts in the French Alps, holiday towns along the coast and countless cities and villages hidden around every hill providing never-ending opportunities to explore.
Where to stay: Hotel Le Littre, 75006 Paris
This luxury four-star hotel, managed by the same family for three generations, is equally suited for those seeking a weekend break or anyone visiting the French capital on business.
Ideally located between Saint Germain des Pres and Montparnasse, the timeless Littre is a true slice of Parisian life and offers all the peace and quiet of a luxury hotel combined with superior standards of comfort and service with top designer fashion stores, museums, art galleries, architectural wonders and a huge choice of restaurants and bars all within easy reach.
Why it’s great for tourists: The Spanish capital city of Madrid. You’ll never be at a loose end here, with art galleries, tapas restaurants and incredible architecture galore, this 24/7 city is beguiling and inspiring in equal measures.
Hit the south coast to Costa del Sol and it gets even better, with 325 days of sun every year, 120km of beaches, charming white villages, outstanding cuisine, endless leisure activities, over 70 golf courses and, of course, the province’s traditions and customs.
Additionally, the Spanish archipelago that is the Canary Islands more than warrants its place as one of the world’s favourite holiday destinations. From the holiday hotspots of Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, to the tranquil islands of La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, millions of holidaymakers flock to these glorious islands. With year-round sunshine, golden beaches, delectable cuisine and a wealth of impressive resorts such the super-exclusive Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia in Gran Canaria, it’s not hard to see why.
Where to stay: Marbella Club, Costa del Sol
Oozing old-school charm and offering both a sense of space and wholesome Mediterranean dining, this long-established, fairly intimate resort within lush jasmine-scented gardens has inviting accommodation, a beach club with water sports, an 18-hole golf course and a vast 5,000sq.m kids’ club.
All of the hotel’s 121 rooms are decorated to the highest standard and feature many luxury amenities. All guest rooms are set in the jasmine-scented lush gardens and include furnished outdoor terraces overlooking the gardens or with views out to sea. The on-site Thalasso Spa harnesses the natural healing powers of seawater with state-of-the-art facilities including a thalassotherapy pool.
Read more: Check out our guide to the Costa del Sol
Explore any (or all) of these world-leading destinations by contacting your local Travel Counsellor today. You’ll benefit from full financial protection and a 24-hour duty office ready to assist you before, during and even after your trip.