Few people would blame the residents of Lisbon for protesting over soaring rental prices — or the mayors of Budapest and Prague for taking measures to reduce rowdy pub crawls. Often, it’s travelers themselves who are most vocal in their dislike for the crowds that congregate in many of the world’s most beautiful spots.
If you’ve been following all these negative stories over the past few years, you might be wondering whether it’s possible to be a universally welcome tourist these days. Fortunately, there are loads of countries which desperately want more visitors — and where you’ll be exerting a truly positive influence by visiting.
Instead of catching a fleeting glimpse of the Mona Lisa, or elbowing through another gauntlet of selfie sticks in some overpriced souvenir market — why not book a trip to one of these relatively empty destinations?
In this blog post, we’ll look at five countries that actually need more tourism – outlining the country’s specific tourist problem, and giving you the lowdown on why we think it’s worth a visit.
#1 – Tuvalu
Located in the South Pacific, Tuvalu is a group of nine tiny islands famous for their low-lying situation. In fact, no part of the country is more than 15ft (4.5m) above sea level.
As one of the world’s most isolated nations, Tuvalu is the least visited country in the world — a fact which, along with rising sea levels due to global warming, contributes to its relatively poor economic situation.
The neglect is a little hard to understand. Tuvalu is home to beautiful beaches, and undisturbed landscapes that could be straight from a postcard. It’s an ideal spot for those who love the sun. The attitude to life, like that of many Pacific Islands, is extremely relaxed — and visitors are typically greeted with a friendly welcome.
If you’re concerned about your carbon footprint and have plenty of time on your hands, it’s possible to reach Tuvalu by boat from Fiji.
#2 – Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has become an increasingly popular destination over the past decade — but after the tragic 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings, tourism there has plummeted.
It’s understandable that people would choose to stay away after the tragedy, but it’s worth noting that there’s no pattern of violent attacks in Sri Lanka. In general, it’s a safe country for tourists, with very little violent crime directed at foreigners.
Tourism employs a whopping 6% of the country’s population, and the aftermath of the Easter bombings resulted in lost revenue of more than $2bn, as well as increased hardship for thousands of people who rely on tourists for their income.
If you’ve ever considered visiting, now is perhaps the best time in terms of what your visit will mean to the country. As the co-founder of the Sri Lanka Tourism Alliance explains: “by returning to Sri Lanka, it is ordinary Sri Lankans that you are helping most. Your presence in the country is taken as an endorsement of their efforts to recover”.
That’s not the only reason to visit, of course. There are also stunning historical sights like Anuradhapura, incredible views from tranquil Ella, and of course, endless stretches of golden sand.
#3 – Nicaragua
In 2018, most headlines for Nicaragua were far from positive. With fierce protests and violent government crackdowns, the country was thrown into sudden turmoil — a turmoil that harmed its otherwise blossoming tourist industry.
Although political tensions still exist, the situation is now quieter and travel to Nicaragua is very much back on the cards. If you’re looking for a relaxed visit to a country with stunning beaches, forests and a landscape scattered with attractive colonial architecture, Nicaragua might be the place for you.
Famous for its lakes, volcanoes and national parks, Nicaragua is a beautiful but economically restricted country — one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. For that reason, tourist dollars are very welcome. If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary but packed with incredible sights, a holiday in Nicaragua is a great way to have that while simultaneously giving a country a leg up.
#4 – San Marino
The world’s oldest republic, San Marino is an anachronistic and quirky microstate completely surrounded by Italy. As the fifth smallest country in the world, San Marino is a tiny European gem that often goes unnoticed. In fact, it’s the least visited country in Europe — despite its evident beauty.
Beloved by Italians (and a small number of non-Italian visitors) for its medieval walled town, cobbled streets and historic architecture, San Marino is home to three mountaintop fortresses with stunning views.
Although San Marino has a solid economy, it relies on tourism to sustain its GDP, and would benefit from a further increase in numbers. So now’s a great time to visit this medieval nation with its ancient towers and delicious Italian (ahem, Sammaranese) cuisine.
#5 – Timor-Leste
Having gained independence in 2002, Timor-Leste (or East Timor) is one of the world’s newest countries.
For decades, Timor-Leste has struggled with the ravages of occupation and civil war. Today, however, it’s far safer than it has been in the past, though it still lacks the infrastructure required for mass tourism. If you value adventure and believe that getting off the beaten track means being a true pioneer — navigating from place to place without much help from Trip Adviser — then you’d probably love this place.
The island nation is home to rich marine life, beautifully remote beaches, and incredible scuba diving and snorkelling. You’ll often feel like you’re the only traveler for miles. Visiting Timor-Leste is a rare opportunity for a quiet, intimate and undisturbed holiday in one of the world’s most beautiful destinations.
Time to start exploring?
We hope this list has given you some ideas for your next trip — whether it’s an obscure European microstate or a dream-like Pacific Island.
Check out our blog for more content like this — from the best ways to protect your passport to everything you need to know about European carry on sizes.