So the World Economic Forum has just released a list of the world’s most and least tourist-friendly countries…but I’m not quite convinced by the results!
140 countries were surveyed as part of the WEF’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013 and asked “How welcome are foreign visitors in your country?”
Places like Iceland, New Zealand, or Morocco, came out on top as the friendliest countries in the world (and I can certainly vouch for NZ), but Bolivia, Venezuela, and Russia all hug the bottom of the list. The Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia are also deemed “unwelcoming” and so is China!
Now some parts of China were definitely a challenge for me and I do remember getting pretty exasperated during the 5 weeks I spent there in 2010 but I can’t remember the locals being particularly ‘unfriendly’ – the language barrier certainly didn’t help, but as far as I recall, nobody went out of their way to make me feel unwelcome (with the exception perhaps of some HORRIBLE hostel staff in Shanghai, but that’s another story!!).
Other high-ranking countries include many in the Western world (Ireland, Canada, Austria, the United States), a few of the most popular tourist destinations like Thailand and the United Arab Emirates, and many countries in West Africa.
Here are the top and bottom 10 countries, acc to the WEF:
2. New Zealand
4. Macedonia, FYR
8. Bosnia and Herzegovina
10. Burkina Faso
3. Russian Federation
8. Slovak Republic
I am most surprised to see Iran and Pakistan in the least friendliest countries – Pakistan especially was one of my favourite countries MOSTLY because everybody there was so friendly! I have such fond memories of travelling through Pakistan and didn’t once feel worried – and the fact that we had armed police escorting us round had nothing to do with it – even they were friendly!…
One memory that stands out is from our visit to the town of Sukkur, where we were staying close to the Sukkur Dam. After going for a long walk over it, the group I was with decided to compete against each-other to see who could get back to the other side the quickest, by ‘any means possible’! A couple of people jumped onto passing donkey carts to hitch a lift while Rich & I jumped onto the back of some random dude’s motorbike! He was only too happy to help and could see we were all having a laugh! We ended up racing against some other random stranger who was giving another two people a ride. The two of us were pretty heavy on the back of our guy’s bike and crossing the river took a bit of time but he wouldn’t take a single penny that we offered him as a thank you for the lift – he just gave us the biggest grin, shook our hands emphatically and then sped off on his way!
Another time, we got chatting to a local guy in a supermarket in Lahore, he was very excited to hear our english accents and invited us back to his home for tea!
As for Iran, we could hardly walk two feet in Esfahan without local couples or families waving excitedly at us across the street and asking us to take their photos. Even when me and the girls had to dress up in homemade Chadors and started take photos of each other, instead of being offended, the local ladies were trying to curb their giggles!…
I can’t really comment on the rest of the ‘least friendly’ list as the only other place I’ve been to is Bulgaria (and going by Sofia, I can kind of understand why Bulgaria is in there!) so I’d be interested to know what others think!
Have you been to Russia, Bolivia or Venezula? What about the Middle East or Mongolia? What did you think of them?
Let us know what you think of the WEF’s results! Which countries have you visited that should actually be on these lists?…