Cross-border competition in tourism.

Last month the Swiss based and supervised World Economic Forum published its annual index of Travel & Tourism Competitiveness for 2009 that ranks countries based on "the different regulatory and business-related issues that (the W.E.F) has identified as levers for improving travel and tourism
competitiveness." The index iis part of a report entitled " Managing in a Time of Turbulence" with analyses that include "issues such as the impact of oil prices on the tourism industry, the
importance of price competitiveness for attracting tourists and the
extent to which the Index explains differences in travel intensity
between countries."

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Switzerland tops the list as was the case for 2008 followed by Austria and Germany both of whom were similarly situated for the prior year. A look at the scores of tables in the over 500 page report reveals several interesting nuggets provides fascinating insights into why some countries perennially populate the top rankings while others languish at the bottom while also accounting for the rapid upward mobility of some and equally a spiral to the trough on the part of others. Most notable among the swiftly upwardly mobile is China which moved up 15 spots to number 47 while both France and Singapore had a creditable 6 notch move up the rankings. Within North America, Canada came in at 5 while the US just about stayed int the top ten at number 8 after dropping a rank from the previous year. Plumbing the depths at the bottom is Chad at 133 by dropping 3 ranks from '08.

Deeper into the report, one of the more interesting tables is on "regulatory framework" which takes into account which include, among others, governments' policy rules and regulations, the somewhat nebulous category called environmental sustainability and prioritization of travel and tourism. It is the latter that arguably is strikingly revealing in showing governmental initiatives or lack of. The US for instance, ranks a distant 44 in that sub-category behind relative minnows like Georgia and Botswana leading to an overall regulatory framework ranking that is an abysmal 57.  No surprise that the year's biggest mover, China ranked 28 for prioritizing travel and tourism.  France too came in at a very creditable 8 for the overall category.

A month after the report was published some enlightened communities and governments around the world seemed to have picked up on its import and have started to pay attention to the key sector most notably with policy playing a part in the forthcoming general election in the UK where it has caused some controversy. In the US from Anchorage, Alaska to Mystic, CT a clarion call on the importance of tourism appears to be gaining ground.  That there is a direct correlation to job creation is well exemplified in the announcement of 3500 new jobs in the UK by InterContinental Hotels. Clearly a message that needs to continually repeated around the globe.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.