Report: U.S. ranks No. 5 on tourism index

The U.S. has plenty of attractive tourism attributes, including great cities, natural wonders, 20 World Heritage sites, a solid transportation infrastructure and a strong work force.

Nonetheless, there are several factors hurting its standing in the world tourism marketplace, according to the Travel & Tourism Competitive Report 2007 released by the World Tourism Forum in collaboration with Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm.

The report features the Travel & Tourism Competitive Index, which ranks the competitiveness of a destination based on 13 factors, such as workforce willingness, safety and security, the openness to tourism, natural/cultural resources and health care.

A key U.S. weakness "is perceived to be a generally negative attitude toward tourists, as well as a lack of prioritization of the sector by the government," the 490-page report found.

It went on to note, "Safety and security is also a relatively more important problem [in the U.S.] than it is in many other countries of the same income level, mainly because of fears about terrorist threats."

At the same time, "other policies, such as the relatively stringent visa regime, have become a hindrance to attracting foreign visitors to the country."

Overall, the U.S. ranked fifth in the report's index.

How other countries fared

By comparison, Switzerland topped the index due to fact that it is "an extremely safe country with excellent health and hygiene indicators and environmental regulations."

Switzerland also boasts a one of the best transportation systems in the world, according to the report, and it has six World Heritage sites.

Among its weaknesses, the report said, is the fact that it has one of the world's most high-cost economies, which results in high airport charges and taxes for travelers.

Rounding out the top five on the index were Austria, Germany and Iceland.

Meanwhile, Spain ranked 15 on the index with its "excellent tourism infrastructure." The government also places a high priority on travel and tourism, the report said.

Jamaica, a popular destination, ranked 48. According to the report, the government places a high priority on tourism. However, it lost points due to the low number of physicians in the country and safety/security concerns.

Mexico ranked 49th. It got high marks for its natural and cultural resources but was hurt by safety and security concerns.

Despite its overall strong economy and other attributes, Japan ranked 25th because "of a negative attitude toward foreign travelers to the country" and because the travel and tourism sector "is not perceived as a priority by the government."


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