Saudi Arabia has achieved the second biggest improvement in ranking among 117 countries featured in the World Economic Forum’s index on travel and tourism.
The forum’s Travel and Tourism Development Index 2021 benchmarks and measures factors and policies that enable sustainable and resilient development in the sector.
These include everything from business and safety and health conditions, to infrastructure and natural resources, environmental, socioeconomic and demand pressures.
The 117 countries accounted for about 96 per cent of the world’s direct travel and tourism gross domestic product in 2020.
Between 2019 and 2021, Saudi Arabia moved up to 33rd from 43rd, as its score rose by 2.3 per cent.
This move up the rankings was only bettered by Indonesia — which increased its score by 3.4 per cent to climb from 44th to 32nd.
Among Middle East and North Africa countries, the UAE ranked highest at 25th. Qatar was placed at 43, Egypt at 51, Bahrain at 57, Jordan at 64, Morocco at 71 and Tunisia in 80th place.
Japan topped the index rankings, with the US in second, followed by Spain, France and Germany.
“The need for travel and tourism development has never been greater,” the report said.
This sector is a major driver of economic development and global connectivity, said the report authors.
It is also vital to the livelihood of some of the populations and businesses most vulnerable to — and hardest hit by — the pandemic in the past two-and-a-half years.
On the outlook for 2022, the report said that despite increasing vaccination rates and the easing of travel restrictions and economic growth have helped kick start a recovery. However, the rebound remains slow, uneven and fragile.
The war in Ukraine will also affect a recovery.
Though international tourist arrivals increased by 18 million in January 2022 compared to January 2021, which equals the total increase in 2021, but they were still 67 per cent below 2019 levels, before the coronavirus.