The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017, by measuring “the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable development of the travel and tourism sector, which in turn, contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country”, has ranked 136 countries across 14 separate dimensions.
In spite of terrorist attacks, the tourism competitiveness of European counties ranks high on the list. Spain tops the global rankings, followed by France (2nd), Germany (3rd), Japan (4th, gaining five places), the United Kingdom (5th), the United States (6th, losing two places), Australia (7th), Italy (8th), Canada (9th, up one) and Switzerland (10th, losing four places).
While advanced economies still hold the top spots in the ranking, Asian countries are emerging as the most dynamic and attractive destinations. Almost all of the region’s countries improved their ranking. Except for Japan, Hong Kong (11th, up two), China (15th, up two), Republic of Korea (19th, up 10) and Malaysia (26th) also made it to the top 30, while India made the largest leap in the top 50 (up 12 places) to land in 40th place.
“The rise of Asia’s giants shows that the Asian Tourism Century is becoming a reality,” said Tiffany Misrahi, Community Lead of the Aviation, Travel and Tourism Industries, World Economic Forum. Welcoming nearly 57 million tourists, China accounts for over 20% of international arrivals in the region. Although only 5% of its population holds a passport, it is also the largest source market in the region with 127.9 million departures in 2015.
Already endowed with exceptional natural (5th) and cultural resources (1st), China has greatly benefited from increased international openness (up 24 positions), improved ICT readiness (72nd, but up 8 positions) and further investments in its ground and tourist service infrastructure (up 9 and 10 positions respectively). China's increased prioritization of its travel and tourism industry has also supported its rise. To continue to rise in the global rankings, China could further enhance its competitiveness by creating more accommodation capacity, beyond the larger cities, a more enabling environment for doing business (92nd), and address environmental sustainability (132nd) to ensure the preservation of its unique natural resources.
Apart from the ranking, the report also shows how the industry is a force for good in an otherwise largely stagnant global economy. The global travel and tourism sector accounts for 10% of global GDP, grows faster than other sectors and provides one in 10 jobs. Underpinning this growth is the increasing accessibility and affordability of travel, although environmental challenges remain and many countries underperform in making technological strides.
The increasingly protectionist global context, one that is hindering global trade, is not holding back international travel. Travel and tourism’s resilience is clear as the industry continues to build bridges between people and stronger visa policies are being developed to enhance security while facilitating travel. In light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, evidence suggests that connectivity has increasingly become a must-have for countries as they develop their digital strategy.
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