Despite all the talk of borders and walls, more people than ever traveled around the world in 2016

Image: AP Photo/Christophe Ena
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Countries around the world logged a record 1.23 billion international tourist arrivals in 2016, according to a count by the UN’s World Tourism Organization—but the spoils weren’t distributed evenly.

International visitors to Europe, the top destination for foreign tourists, grew just 2% to 620 million, while Western Europe didn’t grow at all.

France was a particularly dark spot in the region as tourists stayed away after three major terror attacks on the country—two in Paris and one in Nice —in the space of a year and a half. Local officials and business leaders had warned about how the attacks could dampen tourism in the country and the figures show tourists choose other destinations. Other countries in Europe, like Spain and Austria, also became more attractive to tourists.

Another takeaway from 2016: smaller nations need to build better tourism infrastructure now as they pull in even greater numbers of visitors, like perpetual favorite Iceland. The country posted a nearly 20% rise in overnight stays in hotels and other accommodation, EU figures show.

Asia, on the other hand, is growing region-wide, grabbing an additional 24 million, or 8% more tourist arrivals last year, thanks to both increased interest in both intra-regional travel and tourism from other parts of the globe, says the UN. International tourist arrivals to the Americas rose 8% to 201 million, but North American growth was about half that rate, partly due to the strong US dollar.

Other bright spots included Africa, which grew 8% to 58 million, led by gains in the sub-Saharan region. The Middle East, however, struggled and fell arrivals dropped 4% to 54 million international tourists.