The World Economic Forum (WEF) has published an investigative report on global tourism, which among other things, includes statistics about the countries which are most open to foreigners. The report, entitled ‘The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report’ analyses and compared the competitiveness levels of countries around the world in the fields of travel and tourism. Where does your country stand?
According to the map above, red countries are less welcoming to foreign visitors; yellow and orange countries are more welcoming. The WEF explains some of the trends of the previous years in terms of travel and tourism:
“Although the global economy is showing signs of fragile recovery, the world is becoming increasingly complex and interconnected. In this context, it is notable that the T&T sector has remained remarkably resilient in a number of ways. The number of travelers has increased consistently over the past year, notwithstanding the difficult economic climate and shrinking budgets. Indeed, the UNWTO reports that international tourist arrivals grew by 4 percent in 2012, and forecasts that they will continue to increase by 3 percent to 4 percent in 2013…”
According to the WEF, the top three most welcoming countries for foreigners are, in order: Iceland, New Zealand and Morocco, with Bolivia, Venezuela and Russia being named the least friendly to foreigners. While much of Eastern Europe ranked poorly for its receptiveness to tourists, Estonia, and Georgia both ranked highly–among some of the most friendly. Azerbaijan was also among the more open nations in the region.
The South Caucasus is a known tourist destinations, particularly for neighbouring Russians, in spite of political tensions between them–as the region boasts “wonderful weather, picturesque landscapes, marvellous plants, ancient monuments and relaxing mineral springs”, plus unique national cuisine. However, according to Mercer Quality of Living Survey 2012, has ranked the Georgian capital Tbilisi as 213th out of 222 countries for its quality of living, with CNN calling it “one of the world’s worst cities”–a ranking which has been hotly contested by global tourists and local residence of the city.
Poland, in spite of its seemingly closed attitude towards foreign visitors, has this week announced its intention to open a visa-free regime for Eastern neighbours Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. A move being echoed within the EU, as visa-free travel is, in the foreseeable future, being extended also to Armenia. The WEF explains that such increasing openness is key to global development, as the benefits of tourism extend far beyond mere travel:
“…the need for greater openness remains one of the major trends impacting the T&T sector, especially with regard to the freer movement of people…as a vehicle for job creation, economic growth and development and furthermore committed to work towards developing travel facilitation initiatives in support of job creation, quality work, poverty reduction and global growth.”