Lonely Planet Writer

This tropical island nation receives the least international tourists

A tropical island nation in the South Pacific received only about 2000 international tourists last year, making it the least-visited country in the world, according to data from the World Tourism Organisation.

Clothes drying in the open sun, Funafuti, Tuvalu, South Pacific. Image by Michael Runkel/Getty Images

Tuvalu is made up of three reef islands and six atolls, located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia. It is near to other island nations like Vanuatu, Fiji and American Samoa. Its main island is the long and narrow Fongafale Islet, which is only 2.8 square kilometres. Fongafale Islet is home to a long airstrip where the few travellers who go there can land. Visitors can get to the island on Air Fiji flights, touching down in a country of palm tree-lined beaches where only about 10,000 people live.

A new report from the UNWTO shows that Tuvalu received only 2000 international visitors in 2016, the lowest of all the countries with recorded data. In contrast, the country that received the most visitors – France – saw nearly 83 million eager tourists head to the country, followed the US with 76 million.

An island that forms part of the marine park, a short boat ride from the Tuvalu mainland. Image by David Kirkland / Design Pics/Getty Images

Tuvalu’s tourism organisation notes that visitors to the country will find a “distinctive cultural of atoll island people who vigorously maintain their unique social organisation, art, crafts, architecture, music, dance and legends”. However, Tuvalu – like many island nations – is facing issues from rising sea levels and climate change.

While people don’t seem to be heading to Tuvalu, the report had good news for travel in Oceania, which saw an overall rise of 9%. Australia and New Zealand both had an 11% increase in international arrivals, which the UNWTO attributes to more flights and an increase in east of travel. The Northern Mariana Islands saw an 11% increase, while Guam had a 9% increase and Fiji saw a 5% increase. Overall, Asia and the Pacific is the fastest growing region for international tourist arrivals with an increase of 9% across the region. The top 10 most-visited countries in the world by international travellers are: France, the US, Spain, China, Italy, the UK, Germany, Mexico, Thailand, and Turkey.