Poor infrastructure and restrictive policies vitiated higher ranking 

Tourism: Bhutan scored highest on the safety and security indicator to be ranked the 87th competitive country in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness index 2015, released recently by the World Economic forum.

The rankings measure the competitiveness of 141 countries and economies, based on 14 pillars or criteria, like business environment, travel and tourism policies, and readiness of communication networks, infrastructure quality, and natural resources.

Scoring 6.02 on a 1-7 scale, seven being safest, the country is ranked the 26th safest out of 141 countries assessed for the competitiveness ranking.  Safety and security is a critical factor determining the competitiveness of a country’s T&T industry.  Tourists are likely to be deterred from traveling to dangerous countries or regions, making it less attractive to develop the T&T sector in those places, according to the report.

Despite many feeling that the tourism tariff of USD 200 and USD 250 a day as expensive, the other indicator that the country fared better was in the price competitiveness indicator, where it was ranked 30th scoring 5.18.

However, Bhutan scored the lowest in the tourism service infrastructure criteria.  Bhutan was ranked 120.  The availability of sufficient quality accommodation, resorts and entertainment facilities are considered to have significant competitive advantage for a country.  The level of tourism infrastructure service is measured through the number of “upper level” hotel rooms complemented by the extent of access to services, such as car rentals and ATMs.

Ranked 117th, Bhutan score in the international openness criteria dragged down the ranking.  Restrictive policies, such as cumbersome visa requirements, diminish tourists’ willingness to visit a country, and indirectly reduce the availability of key services, the report states.  Regional trade agreements, openness to bilateral air services and availability are other factors.

Another area that brought down the ranking was the ranking in the cultural resources and business travel criteria.  Bhutan was ranked 111th scoring only 1.29 points.

The number of UNESCO cultural World Heritage sites, large stadiums that can host significant sport or entertainment events, and a new measure of digital demand for cultural and entertainment—the number of online searches related to a country’s cultural resources are considered in this pillar.  The number of international association meetings taking place in a country is included to capture, at least partially, business travel.

As expected, health and hygiene was one area Bhutan scored poorly.  Bhutan was ranked 91.  Access to improved drinking water and sanitation is important for the comfort and health of travellers.  In the event that tourists do become ill, the country’s health sector must be able to ensure they are properly cared for, as measured by the availability of physicians and hospital beds.

Spain tops the table for the first time, with an overall score of 5.31.  France and Germany rank second and third, followed by the United States in fourth.  In the region, Sri Lanka and India are ranked above Bhutan.

By Ugyen Penjore