UK is Top Ten for Tourism

Study by Booz & Company on behalf of the World Economic Forum ranks the UK as 7th on the Travel & Tourism Competiveness Index with emerging markets catching up.

London, 7th March, 2011 – The UK moves back into the Top Ten for travel and tourism competitiveness, in 7th position, on latest Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index. Switzerland, Germany and France lead the way. This is the fourth collaboration between the World Economic Forum (WEF) and international strategy consultancy Booz & Company on the global tourism study. The index measures 139 countries and focuses on the conditions of the respective travel industries in the areas of health and safety, infrastructure, prices, cultural activities, environmental protection and legal regulation.

The UK’s most competitive area is cultural resources, coming third. The country also faired very well in the areas of Information, Communication & Technology (ICT) and airport infrastructure, but has some work to do around ground infrastructure. A proposal last week by ministers for the UK to have a high-speed rail network has sparked mixed reactions: some believe it will be a tourism booster and play a key role in economic growth, generating benefits of £44 billion (www.dft.gov.uk), and others, a financial and environmental risk. The country lets itself down in hygiene, at 46th place and prioritisation of tourism, in 49th. Most noticeably the UK lacks a positive attitude towards tourists and struggles to perceive the value: affinity for tourism remains in the low ranks at 86th place.

The UK’s rise in rank, up four places since the last assessment, is largely due to increased safety and security, jumping a staggering 48 places to 30th. Prices are also more competitive, particularly hotels. The country also benefits from supportive policies as well as a focus on environmental sustainability, coming 13th. The recent proposal of a double summertime, to extend evening daylight hours, aims to further boost tourism. In the near future the UK is hosting both a royal wedding and the 2012 Olympic Games, which has created a priority for the Department for Culture, Media & Sport to create a tourism legacy from the 2012 Games and boost domestic market share (www.culture.gov.uk). These events, and the investment in them, will likely see the UK improving its position in all categories.

“Whilst it’s great news that the UK is back in the Top Ten, there are areas, like prioritisation, where it lags behind other European nations”, says Jason Gordon, Principal at Booz & Company. “Across the 139 countries in the study, the biggest improvements were in new, aspirational regions. Established regions need to think of new areas to compete as the new regions increase in popularity.”

China is key in Asia growth market

Average scores over the last three years of the study are stable. However, the dynamic 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%). The UN World Tourism Organisation identified China as the third-most visited country in 2010. The country is a key growth driver in this trend. Up 23 places, China now ranks 39th on the WEF Travel & Tourism Competiveness Index.

Gulf States overtaking North African tourism strongholds

Destinations such as Tunisia and Egypt are falling back in the rankings, to 47th and 75th, as development in those countries stagnates and they are overtaken by emerging countries. The current political unrest in many North African and Arab countries may have, in the short term, a negative impact on the overall situation.

European winners and losers

Europe is still heavily represented in the Top Ten rankings. A total of seven European destinations hold places in this leading group, with Switzerland, France and Germany at the top. In contrast, Greece is now ranked 29th and Portugal is 18th, both dropping places since 2008. One real winner in this year’s survey is Montenegro. The Balkan state is writing environmental protection into its constitution and relying on sustainable hotel development as it establishes its mountain regions as popular walking and skiing destinations. A high climber, Spain has leapt 23 places to 36th following the deliberate decision not to embrace mass tourism in the 1980s.

About the survey

A total of 139 states worldwide were investigated for the survey, using over 60 variables for the analysis. These take into account aspects such as legislative regulations, health and safety, infrastructure, the local price level and cultural aspects. In addition, the factors of environmental protection and tourist travel were studied. The full report, and the individual assessments, can be downloaded from: http://www.weforum.org/ttcr.