Despite Declines at Popular Tourist Meccas in Greece and Portugal, European Countries are still Top Destination for Leisure Travelers Worldwide, According to Latest World Economic Forum/Booz & Company Travel and Tourism Report
  • European nations take the top five spots; the U.S. moves up two places to sixth
  • Rankings for Central and Eastern Europe and Asia rising quickly; sustainability a key factor in rankings


Munich (March 7, 2011) — The upper echelons of the global tourism industry are now only partly German-speaking: as a holiday destination, Austria has slipped two places compared with 2008 in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011, and now ranks fourth. By contrast, Germany is now positioned behind global tourism champion Switzerland in #2 spot. France is also one of the winners in this long-term study. While this Western European destination ranked only tenth in 2008, it rose to the #3 spot in the international ranking.

The global tourism survey was released World Economic Forum, working jointly for the fourth year running in a strategic partnership with the international strategy consultants Booz & Company. The resulting ranking of the 139 states surveyed was presented today, immediately ahead of ITB Berlin. The analysis focuses on the framework conditions for the respective travel industries in areas such as health and safety, infrastructure, price levels, cultural offerings, environmental protection, and legislative regulation.

Germany came out strongly in the evaluation of long-term and continuous investments in sustainable tourism concepts and environmental protection initiatives. Cultural and landscape-related resources in particular, such as the “Wattenmeer” (the Wadden Sea mudflats, which have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2009), are a key asset for Germany as a travel destination. France, a star performer in the latest rankings, has a newly-formulated national tourism strategy, launched in 2008, aimed at attracting new visitor segments, especially from the Middle East and Asia. To that end, investments have been made in modernizing hotels, revising hotel classifications and, international marketing activities. To cushion the consequences of the economic crisis, the French state is further supporting the travel industry via a drastic reduction in VAT for tourism services.

Generally, the average overall score on the framework conditions for tourism in the travel destinations studied remains largely stable compared with 2008. “For the 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 from Eastern Europe, the Middle East or Asia. For these dynamic regions, we identified significantly above-average structural improvements during the study,” says Jürgen Ringbeck, Senior Partner and tourism expert with Booz & Company.

Asia as a growth market
Overall, 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%). China (which UNWTO identified in 2010 as being the third-most visited country, measured by international tourist arrivals) is a key growth driver in this trend.

The results of the latest survey, the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011, reflect this above-average dynamism: over the past four years, the People’s Republic of China moved up 23 places, and is now ranked at #39. The country continues to benefits considerably from strategic investments in infrastructure and the tourism industry — including Expo 2010 in Shanghai and for the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. However, rapid economic growth and tourism boom in the most populated country in the world brings ecological problems. “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 much of a look-in. 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 at #75, but has already lost seven places over the past four years. Tunisia is currently ranked at #47. By contrast, the Kingdom of Bahrain (2011 ranking: 40) has moved up eight places since 2008. And Oman has risen further, moving up 15 places (2011 ranking: 61). The current political unrest in many North African and Arab countries may have a negative impact on the overall situation in the short term. For example, a major tourist event scheduled for March in Bahrain, the Formula 1 Championship race, was canceled. “But if it means that things stabilize politically, then combined with a further opening-up of the market this could have a positive and lasting impact on the competitiveness of the states concerned,” in Ringbeck’s view.

European winners and losers
Europe is still heavily represented in the top 10 rankings. A total of seven European destinations hold places in this leading group. This year's losers were European tourism destinations in Greece and Portugal. The decline in these popular holiday destinations reflect the consequences of the economic and debt crisis, which hit both particularly hard. In Greece, for example, the effects of general strikes on air traffic, and thus on the tourist trade, are apparent; it ranked #29 in the current list, down from #22 in 2008. Portugal is suffering due to a lack of funds for urgently-needed infrastructure investments; it fell three places to #18 in 2011.

One real winner in this year’s survey is Montenegro. The Balkan state wrote environmental protection into its constitution and is relying on sustainable hotel development as it establishes its mountain regions as popular hiking and skiing destinations. The deliberate decision not to embrace mass tourism, as Spain elected to do in the 1980s, has allowed the destination to leap from #59 in 2008 to #36 in the latest survey.


“Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index”: Comparison of 2011, 2009 and 2008

Country 2011 Ranking 2009 Ranking 2008 Ranking Change 2008-2011  
Switzerland 1 1 1 0
Germany 2 3 3 1
France 3 4 10 7
Austria 4 2 2 -2
Sweden 5 7 8 3
USA 6 8 7 1
UK 7 11 6 -1
Spain 8 6 5 -3
Canada 9 5 9 0
Singapore 10 10 16 6

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.