The global travel and tourism sector shows resilient growth, with competitiveness scores rising in most countries, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The WEF’s latest Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report (TTCR), which ranks 140 countries on their relative strengths in global tourism and travel, shows “the healthy growth of the industry, with increased competitiveness worldwide set against the slower improvement and adoption rates of necessary infrastructure and sustainable tourism management practices respectively.”
The report noted that the industry contributed over 10% to world GDP and about the same to global employment in 2018, a contribution expected to rise by almost 50% in the next decade due to the expanding global middle class, particularly in Asia.
The top 10 TTCR scorers remain the same. Spain is the top performer for the third consecutive report, while the United Kingdom’s slight decline in competitiveness has led to it being overtaken by the United States. The top 10 are, from highest to lowest score: Spain, France, Germany, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Canada and Switzerland.
India (40th to 34th) had the greatest improvement over 2017 among the top 25% of all countries ranked in the report. Egypt (74th to 65th) had the best improvement among countries ranked 36 to 70, Serbia (95th to 83rd) had the largest improvement for economies ranked 71st to 105th and Bangladesh (125th to 120th) was the most improved among the remaining 25% of scorers.
“With travel barriers and travel costs declining, many countries have been significantly increasing their competitive position in global tourism,” said Christoph Wolff, WEF’s head of mobility. “Countries can leverage this opportunity to generate economic and development returns, but they must address gaps in infrastructure and environmental protection to make sure these returns can be achieved over the long-term.“
Representing 98% of global travel and tourism GDP, the 140 economies are ranked in four sub-indexes: enabling environment; travel and tourism policy and enabling conditions; infrastructure; and natural and cultural resources. Together, these four sub-indexes include a total of 14 pillars which are used to score a country’s overall travel and tourism competitiveness.
In terms of region, Asia-Pacific is the second most competitive, coming just behind Europe and Eurasia. The region, one of the fastest growing travel and tourism regions in this year’s ranking, continues to increase in importance for the global industry. Moreover, it is the biggest source of global outbound tourist spending, with most of it going on intra-regional travel.
Asia-Pacific also boasts the world’s most impressive air transport infrastructure and is clearly investing in its ground, port and tourist service infrastructure, in which it showed the greatest regional improvement, the report said.
Japan remains Asia’s most competitive travel and tourism economy. Ranking fourth globally, it recently witnessed a boom in international tourist arrivals and receipts. China is by far the largest travel and tourism economy in Asia-Pacific and 13th most competitive globally. The Philippines has shown improvement, moving up four places to rank 75th globally.
Eastern Asia-Pacific is the most competitive sub-region and the second most competitive in the world for travel and tourism based on the TTCR. Southeast Asia outscores the global average in overall competitiveness. South Asia is the only sub-region in Asia-Pacific to score below the global average for travel and tourism competitiveness, but also experienced the greatest percentage improvement in score.
But the report warns that the sector’s resilience is reaching a tipping point, where factors such as less expensive travel and fewer tourist barriers increase demand to unsustainable levels. In fact, the impact of over-tourism is already being felt by many travel hot spots. For example, Thailand had to recently close its famous Maya Bay cove after a rise in visitors caused extensive ecological damage.
“Given that international tourist arrivals surpassed 1.4 billion in 2018, beating predictions by two years, this tipping point may be approaching sooner than expected,” said the report.
“Countries must look beyond their short-term gains from travel and tourism to ensure a positive future for their economies,” said Lauren Uppink, head of aviation, travel and tourism at WEF. “Travel and tourism can drive economies, but only if policy-makers ensure proper management of their tourism assets, which requires a holistic, multistakeholder approach.”
Photo: Trung Le