The UAE is the top performer in travel and tourism competitiveness in the Mena region, followed by Qatar, according to a report released by the World Economic Forum.
The UAE  – ranked 28th in the global Index – continues to lead the region thanks to rich cultural resources and a slew of international fairs and exhibitions, said the fifth Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report, released with the strategic partnership of Booz & Company, a global management consulting firm.
The biennial report, published under the theme, Reducing Barriers to Economic Growth and Job Creation, sees considerable movement in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index’s top 10 countries. “With its year-round sunshine, white-sand beaches, shopping malls , entertainment centers, recreational facilities and some of the finest restaurants in the world, UAE is definitely a popular tourist destination,” said George Atalla, partner with Booz & Company.
“Despite the impact on natural resources, the country has managed to build a thriving travel and tourism industry. It is also a world-class international hub for global air travel.” In second place for the region is Qatar (41st globally), a nation that boasts well-developed ICT and tourism infrastructures as well as excellent air transport and sports infrastructure.
“Qatar’s  ability to offer tourists a safe and secure environment compounded with its role as a transport hub has significantly enhanced its travel and tourism competitiveness,” added Antoine Nasr, senior associate.
“Due to the economic boom, business tourism has significantly increased. Ranked fourth in the Mena region, Bahrain has fallen 15 places since the 2011 assessment, namely due to security concerns. However the country maintains a number of clear strengths. Those include a highly-evolved transport infrastructure, skilled human resources and strong price competiveness.
Lebanon  ranks eighth in the region and 69th overall with a number of cultural attributes, including five World Heritage cultural sites and some creative industries. Perhaps more importantly, Lebanon is ranked first out of all countries for its affinity for Travel & Tourism, with tourism accounting for a significant amount of economic activity, a very positive attitude toward foreign travellers, and an appreciation of the value of the country’s attributes for tourism. “Egypt, ranked 10th regionally, drops 10 positions in the global assessment to reach 85th overall, probably the result of the continuing unrest in the country.
Most notably, the evaluation of the safety and security environment has dropped to the lowest position of all countries covered in the Report” added Atalla. Global toppers Switzerland, Germany and Austria lead the world in terms of their travel and tourism industry competitiveness with Spain, the UK, the US, France, Canada, Sweden and Singapore completing the top 10, the report said. France fell four places from third in 2011 to seventh, while Spain climbed to fourth from eighth. Also showing strong improvement were the UK – up two places to fifth – and Canada, up one place to eighth. Alongside Switzerland and Germany, the US and Singapore maintained their positions, in sixth and 10th places, respectively.
Sweden , the only other country in the top 10 to fall, dropped from fifth to ninth. Among developed economies, New Zealand and Japan improved strongly; the former climbing to12th from 19th and the latter moving up eight positions to 14th. Emerging market economies reported mixed levels of progress, with India being the only BRIC nation to move up in the rankings. In this category, rising stars include Panama, climbing from 56th to 37th, and the Philippines, which climbed from 94th to 82nd on the back of policy improvements supporting the industry. As well as providing insight into how countries are fostering the development of their travel & tourism industry, the report also offers a snapshot on the health of the industry and its role in driving global economic growth.
With travel and tourism accounting for one in 11 jobs globally, the report highlights that the industry has proven resilient during the global economic downturn and can be a key factor in paving the way for developing and emerging markets to diversify into higher value economic activities. The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index covers 140 countries and uses a combination of data from publicly available sources,international travel and tourism institutions and experts.