Kuwait should develop its tourism sector and hospitality industry to attract more international visitors or lose them forever, says Jassim Al-Saddah, an architect by profession and an advocate for changing the ‘game plan’ for Kuwait tourism sector . Al-Saddah was reacting on the news report which ranked Kuwait as the fourth ‘unfreindliest country’ in the world for tourists which was reported in the international media last week.
“First and foremost, we don’t have the tourism authority to look after the standards of tourism facilities here-that if have in Kuwait. So definitely, we are not supposed to be rated by international organizations simply by saying we are unfriendly to foreigners. That is unacceptable because if that so we shouldn’t welcome any nationalities here to work. Expatriate communities here are bigger than locals so why to rate us unfriendly country,” Al-Saddah asked.
The ‘Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013’by the World Economic Forum ranked 140 countries according to attractiveness and competitiveness in the travel and tourism industries. Bolivia was ranked first unfreindliest country for tourist, scoring a 4.1 out of seven on a scale of “very unwelcome” (0) to “very welcome” (7). Venezuela and the Russian Federation were next, and the fourth in the row was no other than Kuwait. Iceland and New Zealand were ranked the world’s most welcoming nations for visitors. The United States (6th) topped the combined Americas, Singapore (10th) just pushed out Australia and New Zealand to lead the Asia Pacific region, the United Arab Emirates (28th) was the highest performer in the Middle East and the Seychelles (38th) overtook Mauritius to head Africa. The report emphasized the need for continued development in the travel and tourism sector particularly for its role in job creation in a relatively stagnant global economy.
The industry currently accounts for one in 11 jobs in the world. “But, I think the world ranking is partly correct in another sense,” he conceded. “You know why, because there is no tourism spots here, not because we do not have it at hand; we do have but it wasn’t developed. So in my perception, they should have spared Kuwait in the ranking because anyhow tourism was their main goal and we don’t have even the tourism authority.
The truth, many of us travels outside Kuwait instead of welcoming tourists especially every summer,” he admitted. Al-Saddah is an architect whose ultimate dream is to redesign the old cities and transform them into more modern but also attracted spots for tourism. The “friendly” ranking was just one aspect of the report, analyzing each country’s competitiveness in travel and tourism. That competitiveness is “based on the extent to which they are putting in place the factors and policies to make it attractive to develop the travel and tourism secto r.”
Europe was the top region with the first five positions all held by European countries. Switzerland, Germany and Austria were the top three in that order. Switzerland has headed the ranking since the index began five years ago. Among the sectors rated were tourism infrastructure and facilities, business travel appeal, sustainable development of natural resources and rich cultural resources.
However, Al-Saddah mentioned the government should ‘change their game plan’ in tourism sector for the country to compete with their neighboring countries which are now steadily attracting visitors/tourists from all over the world. “There are many important suggestions for the government to reconsider if we really want to attract visitors. Please open up just like other countries in the GCC, why Dubai is attracting visitors? Why Qatar now is catching up? There are several privileges in that part of the world which we cannot offer here; if the country open up and be bold enough to accept changes, then, we are going to see the drastic improvements for sure. Accept that there are old and younger generations tourists. Old (tourist) attitude should be left in the back-burner.
Old generations want simple things, but there are new and younger age who wants something like ‘night life’,” he added. “Building excellent hospitality business is number one, if we offer better hospitality, we can attract tourists from all over the world . Another flaw in the system is the inability of the government to create an excellent propaganda about the country; we have money to do so, but we are not spending penny to advertise our country; we have several tourism spots which can be developed according to international standards but they are not given priority,” he said.
The report used data compiled from the World Economic Forum’s  Executive Opinion Survey and hard data from private sources and national and international agencies and organizations such as the ICAO, IATA, UNWTO, World Bank/International Finance Corporation, IUCN, WHO and UNESCO. By Ben Garcia, Kuwait Times Staff