France and Spain are the most popular countries in the world with the United States coming in third, according to new research.

Spain has replaced the United States as the second most popular place for tourists which researchers suggest could be due to a Trump effect with travellers viewing the US as a less welcoming place.

The figures from the World Tourism Organisation, a United Nations agency, show that 89 million people visited France in 2017, some 82 million went to Spain and 75.6 million to the US.

It is not the only set of figures to show that fewer people are travelling to the US. Data from the US Travel Association show that in the first six months of 2017 numbers fell by 6% compared to the same period in 2016.

The association said that tourism in the US could be suffering from a global reaction to Trump’s policies on visas an immigration.

‘Many international travellers may have drastically misunderstood Trump's intentions as wanting to discourage international visitors generally, not just those who pose a security risk,’ said a US Travel Association spokesman.

Overall the figures from the WTO show that tourist arrivals grew by 7% in 2017, the highest number for seven years, reaching a total of 1.322 million and this strong growth is expected to continue in 2018 with numbers rising by between 4% and 5%.

This is above the 3.8% average increase projected for the period 2010 to 2020 by the WTO in its Tourism Towards 2030 long term forecast. Europe and the Americas are both expected to grow by 3.5% to 4.5%, Asia and the Pacific by 5% to 6%, Africa by 5% to 7% and the Middle East by 4% to 6%.

A breakdown of the figures show that international tourist arrivals in Europe reached 671 million in 2017, an 8% increase following a comparatively weaker 2016. Growth was driven by Southern and Mediterranean Europe with a rise of13%. Western Europe, up 7% and Northern Europe and Central and Eastern Europe, both up 5%, also recorded robust growth.

Asia and the Pacific saw growth of 6% to 324 million international tourist arrivals in 2017. Arrivals in South Asia grew 10%, in South East Asia by 8% and in Oceania by 7% while arrivals to North East Asia increased by 3%.

The Americas recorded a rise of 3% overall to 207 million international tourist arrivals in 2017, with most destinations enjoying positive results. South America led growth with a rise of 7% and Central America and the Caribbean both recorded growth of 4%, with the latter showing clear signs of recovery in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria. In North America robust results in Mexico and Canada contrasted with a decrease in the United States, the region’s largest destination.

Based on available data for Africa, growth in 2017 is estimated at 8%. The region consolidated its 2016 rebound and reached a record 62 million international arrivals. North Africa enjoyed a strong recovery with arrivals growing by 13%, while in Sub-Saharan Africa arrivals increased by 5%.

The Middle East with growth of 5% received 58 million international tourist arrivals in 2017 with sustained growth in some destinations and a strong recovery in others.