Environmental Standards and Infrastructure Increasingly Determine Competitiveness In the Travel and Tourism Sector

New survey reveals that Switzerland, Austria and Germany top the rankings list, with an exemplary sustainability strategy and transport network

March 4, 2008 - Environmental protection, along with a modern transport infrastructure, are the factors which are increasingly determining the competitiveness of international destinations in the market for travel and tourism. Countries which include tourism more strongly in sustainable overall concepts can strengthen their position. That is one of the findings of the Global Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2008 (TTCR). This second edition of the annual report has been prepared by the World Economic Forum in conjunction with the international strategy and technology consultants Booz & Company and other well-known partners. The report lists the 130 countries studied on an index assessing their competitiveness in the travel and tourism sector.

Recommendations from the last report were well-received by decision-makers in the tourism and tourist travel sectors; this is partly reflected in the form of practical changes whose effects can also be noted in the new ranking. Switzerland, Austria and Germany continue to top the list, particularly on account of their environmental standards (exemplary in international terms) and similarly exemplary transport infrastructure. Sweden has achieved a significant leap of nine places up the rankings, partly due to its heightened efforts on environmental issues. These same concerns also account for the good index rankings achieved by the other Scandinavian countries. Improvements are also noted for Brazil (up 10 places) and for two Mediterranean states, Spain (up 10 places) and Italy (up 5 places). Progress has also been achieved by other popular Southern European holiday destinations, such as Portugal (up 7 places) and Greece (up 5 places).

The travel and tourism sector as the driver of regulatory changes

A further finding of this report is that the travel and tourism sector is a key wealth driver for emerging countries like China and South Africa. These nations have used supportive legislation to decisively improve their competitiveness in these areas. China, which this year is staging the Olympic Games, achieved dramatic improvements in the ranking,, due to a combination or regulatory adjustments and infrastructure measures (up to 62nd in the ranking from 71 last year). South Africa also succeeded in moving up the rankings (to 60th spot, up from 62 last year); the country is set to be the first on the African continent to stage the Football World Cup, in 2010.

Countries with a long-term environmental agenda prominently ranked

Countries placing a stronger emphasis on sustainability come out particularly well in the rankings, and Bulgaria is a good example of this. The country has developed concepts offering alternatives to package holiday tourism on the Black Sea coast. “Implementing strategies is one of the most important success factors in establishing a balance between short-term economic successes and long-term ecological objectives,” says Jürgen Ringbeck, a managing partner with Booz & Company. He adds that customers will increasingly demand “green” tourism services. “The travel and tourism companies are now faced with the challenge of satisfying this demand.”

EU states amongst the most competitive when it comes to tourism

As a consequence of their advanced infrastructure, secure statutory framework conditions and high level of education and training, the industrialised nations again come out best in the ranking. Amongst the Top 10 of the total number of 130 countries studied for the TTCR, there is strong representation from Europe, which accounts for seven of the places. In addition to Switzerland (1), Austria (2) and Germany (3), the leading group includes Spain (5), Great Britain (6), Sweden (8) and France (10). Italy improved on its poor ranking of the previous year, rising to 28th spot in this year’s index. However, in the European comparison this popular holiday destination continues to lag behind due to the high price level, relatively low safety standards and, above all, the poorly-developed mind-set in terms of protecting the environment.

The study – approach adopted, and presentation

In total, 130 countries around the world were studied, looking at over 60 variables. These included taking account of statutory regulations, health and safety, infrastructure, the local price level and cultural aspects. To acknowledge the growing influence of the environmental protection factor in tourism and tourist travel, the index was expanded to include specific analysis of the points “ecology and sustainability”.

The full report can be downloaded at the World Economic Forum’s homepage:

The results of the TCCR are being presented in detail at the ITB in Berlin. On 7 March 2008, a panel discussion is being held in Hall 7.1a between 15:00 and 16:00. Using comparative country analyses, the event and presentation will illustrate those factors which increase a country’s competitiveness and the business decisions which ought to be derived from that evidence. Following the event, the speakers will be available to conduct more in-depth discussions.

Top Ten ranking

Country Ranking Score
Switzerland 1 5.63
Austria 2 5.43
Germany 3 5.41
Australia 4 5.34
Spain 5 5.30
Great Britain 6 5.28
USA 7 5.28
Sweden 8 5.27
Canada 9 5.26
France 10 5.23


Rankings in the “sustainable environmental strategy” category

Country Ranking Score
Sweden 1 6.12
Switzerland 2 5.90
Denmark 3 5.88
Germany 4 5.82
France 5 5.75
Norway 6 5.69
Finland 7 5.62
Austria 8 5.57
Netherlands 9 5.56
Great Britain 10 5.56


Selected “improvers" in the rankings

Country Improvement in ranking
(no. of places)
Bulgaria 11
Brazil 10
Spain 10
Australia 9
China 9
Sweden 9
Portugal 7
Italy 5
Great Britain 4
France 2
Greece 2
South Africa 2