UAE tops world tourism rankings for Mena region

Japan leads the way globally despite remaining closed to most tourists because of Covid-19

As well as leading the Mena rankings in the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism Index, the UAE is ranked No 25 globally, an upwards move of one spot when compared with the equivalent study in 2019. Image: DCT Abu Dhabi
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The UAE has ranked highest in the Middle East and North Africa in a new global tourism report from the World Economic Forum.

With an overall score of 4.5 out of 7, the Emirates is also the highest ranked in the world when it comes to having top-notch airports and air transport. The UAE scored highly for its smart services and reputation as a safe place to for tourists to visit.

As well as leading the Mena rankings, the UAE is ranked No 25 globally, an upwards move of one spot when compared with the equivalent study in 2019.

Ranking 117 destinations on factors such as development, sustainability and resiliency of tourism, The Travel & Tourism Development Index 2021 ranks Saudi Arabia second in the Mena region.

The kingdom has the largest travel and tourism economy in this part of the world and has had the biggest leap in rankings, moving from 43rd place in 2019 to 33rd in 2021.

It picked up points for managing travel demand to prevent overtourism, being a safe place to visit and use of digital technology, but lost points for international openness.

The UAE lost points for its natural resources, a measurement that reflects the available natural surrounds of a destination as well as the development of outdoor tourism activities.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Qatar ranks third (No 44 globally), while Israel is fifth (No 47).

The index revealed that the hard-hit tourism sector is showing recovery in many parts of the world after the Covid-19 pandemic, but also revealed that tourism has changed.

“The sector and its customers have probably changed permanently," Pedro Gomez Pensado, from the World Economic Forum, said. "Travellers have become more discerning, not least about the health and hygiene conditions in potential destinations. They are also cautious about the impact of future coronavirus variants or challenges in the form of government policies, border closures and travel disruptions."

Globally, Japan ranked first in the index, scoring big for its cultural resources and in several infrastructure categories. The United States is second in the world, followed by Spain, France and Germany to round up the top-five spots.

Overall, Vietnam had the greatest improvement, moving from No 60 to No 52 in the world. Malaysia, India and Mongolia had the biggest declines.

Europe, Asia and the Pacific dominate the rankings, but Sub-Saharan Africa had the greatest improvement in performance.

This year’s report is an evolution of the Travel and Tourism competitiveness Index that has been published biannually for the last 15 years. The change includes a renewed focus on tourism’s role in economic and social development.

Updated: May 25, 2022, 2:21 PM