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There's always lists on the most popular countries. But in my travels, I've found going against the grain has been super rewarding - places like Chernobyl, in Ukraine, or the desert of Uzbekistan or the mountains of Tajikistan have been some of my travelling highlights.

Then reading a mostly fluff piece on the least visited places in the world made me wonder - and I'll need statistics to back this up please, which country has the fewest TOURISTS (that's people from other countries coming to this country for tourism) every year?

Three caveats:

  • Antarctica is not a country (for the purpose of this)
  • All the soldiers entering Iraq / Afghanistan do not count as tourists
  • since countries come and go, ideally this would simply be the most recent statistics we can find, which is likely to be '2011' statistics.
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Whose definition of "country" should we use? Least visited in 2011? Least visited of all time? Something in between? Some parts of Russia that want to be countries you need some serious male dangly bits to visit, such as Chechnya. –  hippietrail Nov 22 '11 at 12:14
    
I retagged your question again so let me know what you think. I think "alternative" is covered by "adventure", especially when combined with "extreme tourism" and double especially when combined with "remote locations". This is also a workable question for the kinda vague "countries" tag but the "tourism" tag was way off the vague-o-meter (-: –  hippietrail Nov 22 '11 at 12:16
    
Over which period? Id suggest Libya this year could have a low number but in previous years might have been in the middle of the pack. –  Stuart Nov 22 '11 at 14:12
    
I'm not sure this is a good question, because it calls for the creation of a list. A better question might be, which countries have "conditions," (fighting, terrorism, high likelihood of disease), that would deter tourists. –  Tom Au Nov 22 '11 at 18:43
    
A friend of mine who had come home from working in Libya due to current events has now gone back there. I don't know if everybody else is doing the same so quickly. –  hippietrail Nov 22 '11 at 19:02
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6 Answers 6

There is a somewhat relevant list for that.

I only found this PDF linked on from wikipedia with solid numbers, but they never show the raw data; a Top50 by arrivals or by tourist spending is all they offer.

Another source for this data seems to be http://www.ipkinternational.com/ - but you have to purchase the records. Wolfram alpha has no data for this query.

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North Korea. Very few people go there. There's only one offical tour company.

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But I bet they get orders of magnitude more tourists than Somalia gets. I know definitely one person and I think two who have been to North Korea. I don't know anyone who's ventured to Somalia... –  hippietrail Aug 14 '12 at 13:34
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North Korea isn't France or Thailand, and visits had tapered off in the last couple of years, but it does receive thousands of tourists each year. A large proportion are Chinese, especially to Baekdusan on the border; there is even weekly passenger train service from the PRC to Pyongyang. And until the Cheonan incident there were South Korean bus tours to Kaesong and Geumgangsan. –  choster Aug 14 '12 at 15:05
    
turn out you are quite wrong, though not totally. classetouriste.be/travel-to-north-korea –  kmonsoor Sep 6 '13 at 6:28
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Probably Somalia. In 2010, there was a Canadian man who disembarked from his plane in Mogadishu claiming to be a tourist, and the officials were in such disbelief that Somalia had a tourist that they detained him and it made the news.

An immigration official is quoted as saying that the Canadian was “the first person to come to Mogadishu only for tourism".

About a decade ago, the Economist interviewed the minister of tourism of Somalia who said “I'm sure tourists would leave Somalia alive and I'm hopeful they wouldn't be kidnapped. At least, we would try to make sure they were not kidnapped, although it can happen.” Hardly a ringing advertisement for their tourism industry!

Unfortunately, I don't know if Mogadishu has had a tourist since the Canadian two years ago, nor do I have statistics for cities in Somalia outside of Mogadishu.

Chris Guillebeau did travel to Somaliland (which is the "safe" part of Somalia) for tourism in Dec 2011 and wrote an interesting blog post on his experience - didn't sound like many other tourists were going there from that.

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In 2010 40,873 tourists visited Bhutan.

Source

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I suspected Central African Republic might have been lower, but the world bank reports they had 52000 in 2009. –  Stuart Oct 26 '12 at 16:10
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Gunnar Garfors has been researching this question on his blog.

He's found that the UNWTO, World Tourism Organization has a good overview of them.

Essentially, in 2012, at the tail end of the tourism list is:

  1. Tuvalu - 1200 tourists

  2. Somalia - 500 tourists

  3. Nauru - 200 tourists

Oddly, I tried to go to Nauru in 2006, but couldn't find flights that worked, so went to Tonga instead :/

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It's fairly obvious that small countries are visited by less tourists, but a more fair statistics is tourists per capita. For example, as per the data provided, North Korea is visited by 35000 tourists on a basis of 24 million population, while Solomon Islands boasts 23000 for its 520 thousand inhabitants. –  mindcorrosive Jan 23 '13 at 7:54
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@mindcorrosive - not always. New Zealand is smaller than Somalia, for example, but gets a lot more tourists. And the intent in mind for asking it was that for 'bragging rights' you need to have been to a place hardly anyone goes to, so per capita, while relevant for comparing tourist rates, doesn't beat hard numbers in this case :) –  Mark Mayo Jan 23 '13 at 17:15
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My understanding is that Saudi Arabia does not permit tourists, period.

Thus, depending on how you count those making a religious pilgrimage (I forget what it's called) to Mecca the count might be zero, putting them at the bottom of the list.

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Interesting. Chris Guillebeau is visiting every country in the world - has Norway remaining, and he appears to have Saudi Arabia on the list. –  Mark Mayo Jan 23 '13 at 2:05
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Saudi Arabia does not issue tourist visas, but citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council do not need visas to travel there and can thus visit for any reason, including tourism. –  jpatokal Jan 23 '13 at 9:50
    
@MarkMayo: Not issuing tourist visas doesn't mean they don't issue business visas. It is possible to get in and I've even met someone who has been there. The question is specifically about tourists, though. –  Loren Pechtel Jan 24 '13 at 2:29
    
Indeed, I'd forgotten about business visas. Although I got a business visa for Russia when I was a tourist there, and for reason, I put tourism(!). The joys of bureaucracy ;) –  Mark Mayo Jan 24 '13 at 2:34
    
@MarkMayo I think in another question it was mentioned the block on tourist visa is relatively recent. He could have visited there before they stopped issuing them? –  jwenting Jan 24 '13 at 10:12
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