South Africa slips in World Economic Forum Tourism Competitiveness Index

The Asian Tourism Century is Arriving as Japan, China, South Korea and India Boost Region’s Tourism-Friendliness while South Africa drops five places.

  • Asia has most improved its tourism-friendliness of all regions, the 2017 World Economic Forum’s global Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index reveals today
  • Japan (fourth, up five places), China (15th, up two) and India (40th, up 12) are Asia’s exponents in the global index led by Spain, France and Germany; the United States (sixth, down two places) and Switzerland (10th, down four) fall back
  • The travel and tourism sector in many countries around the world remains a bright spot in economic and job growth, but technological and sustainability challenges are growing
  • Download the full report, highlights, summary, profiles and rankings here

The 10 most Travel and Tourism-enabled countries

South Africa still leads the regional ranking, taking the 53rd place globally, though the country slipped five places since 2015. It continues to rely on cultural resources (19th), strong natural resources (23rd), and a conducive business environment (21st), characterized by minimal red tape and modest administrative burden.

Although the labour market remains inefficient (118th), there has been some progress in this area: it ranked 135th two years ago.

The country has also improved price competitiveness (43rd) by reducing tickets charges, taxes and hotel prices.

Despite these improvements, South Africa’s tourism competitiveness has deteriorated on two elements—safety and security (120th) and environmental sustainability (117th). Fears of terrorism and an increased sense of insecurity related to crime make tourists less light-hearted about travelling in the country. With 33 homicides per 100,000 people, South Africa has one of the worst homicide rates in the index, ranking 131st.

With respect to environmental sustainability, deforestation and loss of habitat have proceeded at a rapid rate since 2000. The global interest and demand for South Africa’s natural resources is increasing, but insufficient habitat preservation could prevent the country from benefitting from this growing source of tourist attraction.

Another aspect that has contributed to a lower performance for South Africa this year is the reduced efforts made by the government to support the sector (59th). Although spending has remained unchanged, marketing campaigns have been perceived as effective (40th). To foster its tourism sector, South Africa could also implement more open visa policies (71st) and service trade agreements (91st).

WEF Tourism Competitiveness Index

Regional Tourism Competitiveness

Namibia is the 4th most T&T competitive nation in Sub-Saharan Africa, taking the 82nd place globally. Namibia’s natural resources (40th), its business environment (38th), air transportation (58th) and price competitiveness (30th) sustain Namibia’s competitiveness as the country slowly continues to increase international arrivals. Nonetheless, Namibia loses 12 positions this year, resulting partially from statistical adjustments such as the inclusion of previously unavailable deforestation figures, which have significantly reduced the sustainability performance of the country. Despite these adjustments, which make comparison more challenging, Namibia has lost a considerable portion of its forest since the early 2000s (127th) and its water resources have deteriorated. Similarly, the re-assessment of car rental services (72nd) and the diffusion of ATMs have resulted in a lower performance of Namibia’s tourism service infrastructure (73rd). Beyond these changes, Namibia still needs to improve its health and hygiene (117th) and under-appreciated cultural resources (127th), and renew focus on its inadequately qualified human resources (106th), which remain the main bottlenecks toward a faster development of the T&T sector in the country.

Tanzania ranks 91st in 2017. It is home to one of the most impressive concentration of natural resources (8th) and wildlife globally, with its rich variety of landscapes, ranging from Mt. Kilimanjaro to its coastline and Zanzibar. Yet international arrivals have flattened since 2012, when the country welcomed 1 million international visitors. Tanzania is a price-competitive destination (34th) where the government plays an active role in promoting the T&T sector (45th). Still, there is enormous untapped potential. Cultural resources (86th) could be nurtured to better complement the natural and safari tourism offer. While there has been some progress in the country’s infrastructure, particularly air (106th, up 10 places) and ground transport (102nd, up 18 places), it remains largely underdeveloped. Tourism service infrastructure (103rd) and, specifically, the hotel reception capacity, remain low (119th). Despite some improvements, Tanzania’s business environment (102nd) is still characterized by slow and costly processes to start a business or obtain construction permits. Health and hygiene conditions (125th) are also improving very slowly. Similarly, the uptake of ICTs technologies is proceeding at a slower pace than in other countries (121st), with a particularly low increase in mobile broadband subscriptions. Despite its immense potential, Tanzania still has important gaps to fill to fully leverage the T&T sector as a mean to increase its living conditions.

Mozambique improves considerably, rising 8 places, and ranking 122nd. The strengths of Mozambique’s T&T competitiveness continue to be its natural resources and its very open visa policy (8th). This year, the country rose in the rankings through improvements in ICT readiness (123rd, up 11 places), resulting from increased mobile phone usage, by reducing taxes and charges on air transport, and by placing more value on its natural resources. Although there is still no natural site on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, Mozambique has slightly increased the surface of protected areas and has managed to improve the awareness of its outstanding natural resources (73rd), ranging from safari parks to pristine beaches and islands. The country’s environmental sustainability is positive (64th) and the amount of threatened species is low. However, there are looming sustainability risks, including the lack of water treatment systems and deforestation, resulting from illegal logging. Despite the climb in the ranking this year, the tourism potential in Mozambique remains largely untapped. Infrastructure (121st), human resources (129th), and health and hygiene conditions (136th) are all factors that require significant investments and would generate substantial returns for the tourism sector, but also for the country’s overall competitiveness and productivity.

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