The UAE leads the MENA region in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013 released by the World Economic Forum, ranking at 28th place overall in the global index.
The UAE’s position has risen two places on the index – which covers 140 countries – since the last assessment.
“Although the UAE is not endowed with rich natural resources, it has built a cultural resource base, attracting both leisure and business travellers, with several and growing international fairs and exhibitions and increasingly diverse creative industries,” said the report.
While the country is also characterised by a strong affinity for travel & tourism, its most important competitive advantage relates to its “world-class international hubs for global air travel,” the report added.
The UAE has also carried out effective marketing and branding campaigns, is open to foreign investments and has a liberal visa regime.
The main area of concern is environmental sustainability, and hotel prices are also somewhat high by international standards, the report found.
Qatar followed the UAE to rank second in the region and 41st overall, up one place since the last assessment.
“Qatar benefits from a safe and secure environment, good ICT and tourism infrastructures and excellent air transport infrastructure,” the report said.
“But it should continue to improve its focus on environmental sustainability and ensure that it does not lose sight of the importance of the travel and tourism sector for its development.”
Bahrain, ranked 55th overall, is fourth in the region, but is down 15 positions since the last assessment.
The report found that although the country boasts good transport infrastructure, high-quality human resources and strong price competitiveness, it is seeing a weakening in the assessment of its tourism infrastructure, health and hygiene standards and ICT infrastructure.
Overall, Switzerland, Germany and Austria ranked the highest in the world for their travel and tourism industry competitiveness.
“The travel and tourism industry has weathered the global downturn and is now playing an important role in helping tackle serious global challenges, including youth unemployment, economic development and environmental sustainability,” said Thea Chiesa, director, head of Aviation, Travel & Tourism Industries, World Economic Forum.
“The challenge for the industry and its stakeholders today is to maintain this powerful contribution to economic growth and employment, while continuing to proactively pursue the shared goals of facilitating global travel and tourism and protecting host cultures, identities and environments,” she added.