Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011 Released

The World Economic Forum's "Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011", conducted in partnership with global management consulting firm Booz & Company is recently released.

It continues to rank Western European countries highest, with Switzerland coming in at number one, and Germany, France, Austria, and Sweden rounding out the top five. USA comes sixth.

Turkey showed improvement in a global survey of the most competitive countries in the travel and tourism sector, moving up from 56th in 2009 to 50th this year.

Now in its fourth year, the global tourism report ranks 139 countries around the world in the "Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index" (TTCI), measuring factors and policies that facilitate or drive travel and tourism competitiveness, including health and safety, infrastructure, price levels, culture, environmental protection, and regulation. The rankings are compiled from survey data from the World Economic Forum's annual Executive Opinion Survey and quantitative data from publicly available sources, international organizations, and travel and tourism institutions and experts.

The U.S. performance has been stable since the inception of the TTCI, though it received its highest ranking this year. It gets high marks in particular for human, cultural, and natural resources, for which the U.S. ranked first overall, and for its overall business environment infrastructure, where it ranked third. The country's cultural resources are ranked sixth and cultural resources third overall, due to its nationally protected areas and World Heritage natural sites. However, the U.S. was perceived as not sufficiently eco-friendly; the country's environmental sustainability ranking was only 105 out of 139.

Although the average overall score on the conditions for tourism in the travel destinations studied remains largely stable compared with 2008, a number of emerging tourist destinations showed significant gains. "For established travel destinations, preserving the status quo is definitely not a sustainable strategy for the future in order to win out over new, aspirational travel regions within Eastern Europe, the Middle East, or Asia. For these dynamic regions, we identified significantly above-average structural improvements during the study," says Jurgen Ringbeck, Senior Partner and tourism expert with Booz & Company.

Asia as a growth market

Overall growth in the tourism sector is moving away from the established regions such as Europe and North America, and towards the East. In the Asia-Pacific Region, international tourist arrivals from 2000 to 2010 increased nearly twice as fast (85%) as the global average (39%). China (which the World Tourism Organization identified in 2010 as being the third-most visited country, measured by international tourist arrivals) is a key growth driver in this trend. This year's survey results reflect this dynamism: over the past four years, the People's Republic of China has moved up 23 places, and now ranks 39th. The country benefits considerably from strategic investments in infrastructure and the tourism industry – not least for Expo 2010 in Shanghai and for the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008.

However, rapid economic growth in the most populated country in the world, and of course the consequences of the boom in tourism, are also bringing ecological problems in their wake. "Growth, pure and simple, is often to be found at the forefront of structural policy. Environmental protection and soft tourism concepts generally still don't get as much consideration. When it comes to sustainability, many regions reveal a marked need to up their game," says Ringbeck.

Gulf States overtaking North African tourism strongholds

The trends in the index clearly show that traditional North African destinations such as Tunisia and Egypt are falling back in the rankings, as development in those countries stagnates and they are overtaken by emerging countries. Egypt is currently ranked 75, but has already lost seven places over the past four years. Tunisia is currently ranked 47. By contrast, the Kingdom of Bahrain (2011 ranking: 40) has moved up eight places since 2008. And Oman has made up even more ground, moving up 15 places (2011 ranking: 61). The current political unrest in many North African and Arab countries may have a negative impact on tourism, at least in the short term. "But if it leads to political stability, that combined with a further opening-up of the market could have a positive and lasting impact on the competitiveness of the countries concerned," said Ringbeck.

European winners and losers

Europe is still heavily represented in the top 10 ranking, with includes seven European destinations. However, Greece and Portugal continue to trail their neighbors. The results for these popular holiday destinations reflect to a large extent the consequences of the economic crisis, which hit both destinations particularly hard. In Greece, for example, the effects of general strikes on air traffic, and thus on the tourist trade, are apparent, as it ranked 29 in the current list, down from 22 in 2008. Portugal, which lacks funds for urgently-needed infrastructure investments, dropped three places compared with 2008 and now ranks 18. Turkey is ranked 29th with a score of 4.37.

By contrast, one real winner in this year's survey is Montenegro. The Balkan state is writing environmental protection into its constitution and is relying on sustainable hotel development as it establishes its mountain regions as popular walking and skiing destinations. The deliberate decision not to embrace mass tourism, as for instance Spain elected to do in the 1980s, has allowed the destination to leap from a ranking of 59 in 2008 to 36 in the latest survey.

source: Focus on Travel News 14.03.2011

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