World Economic Forum ranks best and worst countries for travel and tourism

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    Switzerland and Spain are two countries doing a good job luring in tourists, according to a recent report by the World Economic Forum, while Russia–not so much. (iStock)

Countries are vying for hard-earned tourist dollars like never before.  But have you ever wondered which country does the best –and worst–job on tourism?

You might not be surprised that the U.S. didn’t take the number one spot (it was ranked 6th).  What is interesting is that Europe, despite its austerity measures, is doing a great job at luring in the tourists, while China and Russia –not so much.

Switzerland, Germany and Austria ranked the best for travel and tourism industry competitiveness, according to the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013, released by the World Economic Forum.  The index, which looked at 140 countries and ranked them by data from international travel and tourism institutions and expert surveys, cited factors such as efficient infrastructure, cultural sites, world-class hotels and availability of trained staff.

But Spain –yes, the country with 26 percent unemployment –climbed to fourth from eighth, due to its abundance of World Heritage sites, cultural resources and sports stadiums. France fell four places from third in 2011 to seventh due to restrictive regulations in the tourism sector.  The U.K. and Sweden were also in the top 10.

On the bottom of the ranking aren’t all strife-riddled countries like Chad and Haiti (139 and 140 respectively). Russia’s corruption and Venezuela’s anti-Western sentiment are all tourist turn-offs.  China fell six spots with an overall ranking of 45th due, in part, to its lack of infrastructure.

In terms of developing nations, some of the rising stars include Panama (moving from 56th to 37th) and the Philippines (rising from to 82th from 94th).  The UAE also continues to draw tourist to its hotspots, fueled by oil money, but also making it more attractive are its “world-class” airports.

So what does this mean for you?  The report doesn’t get into specifics, but knowing which countries are working to make tourists welcome could help you make better choices the next time you travel.

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