International tourism is an enormous industry, representing $1.5 trillion per year in revenues and about 7% of total world exports of goods and services in 2015. The UN World Tourism Organization has published its "Tourism Highlights 2016" with a number of background facts.
International tourist arrivals reached 1.2 billion in 2015, and are projected by the UNWTO to rise by 50% in the next 15 years.
In an economic sense, tourism (both international and domestic) is a very large industry, and it is shaped by a mixture of policies toward visitors, ease of transportation and lodging, and a mixture of public and private amenities and destinations. When the US ranks behind France as a tourist destination, it suggests that the US is not doing what it could to facilitate tourism. For a number of lower-income and medium-income countries, one of their important economic questions is how to grow their tourism industry, and then how to incorporate the economic gains into gains in the standard of living for their economy. After all, many skills that facilitate tourism can help the economy in other ways, too, like reliable communications, logistics and scheduling, handling financial payments, clean water, electricity, transportation, and more. In a big-picture sense, I'm enough of an optimist to hope that the associations and connections that often result from international tourism can have a positive effect across countries and cultures, too.