Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

India among the top 40 countries enabling travel and tourism: World Economic Forum

Report predicts the global tourism industry to surpass pre-covid levels, marks this year as a turning point

Samidha Jain
Published: May 21, 2024 02:28:21 PM IST
Updated: May 21, 2024 09:11:13 AM IST

India among the top 40 countries enabling travel and tourism: World Economic ForumIndia's strong natural, cultural, and non-leisure resources, particularly, help in boosting its travel potential. Image: Shutterstock

The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that the global tourism industry will recover from the lows of the Covid-19 pandemic and will even surpass the levels seen before the crisis. How so? The report published by WEF, in partnership with the University of Surrey, analysed the travel and tourism sectors of 119 countries and predicted the recovery to be largely driven by a significant increase in travelling demand worldwide, coinciding with more available flights, better international openness, and increased interest and investment in natural and cultural attractions.
 
In the recent past, many countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, China, the UAE, etc. have extended their visa-free travel policies for a few countries, particularly India, in order to attract visitors.
 
According to WEF’s Travel and Tourism Development Index 2024, US, Spain, and Japan are the top three countries which are enabling travel and tourism in 2024. The list of the top 10 countries includes:

  1. United States
  2. Spain
  3. Japan
  4. France
  5. Australia
  6. Germany
  7. United Kingdom
  8. China
  9. Italy
  10.  Switzerland
The report highlights that the Middle East had the highest recovery rates in international tourist arrivals, which is 20 percent above the 2019 level, while Europe, Africa and the US all showed a strong recovery of around 90 percent in 2023. “This year marks a turning point for the travel and tourism sector, which we know has the capacity to unlock growth and serve communities through economic and social transformation,” said Francisco Betti, head of the global industries team, WEF, in the press release.

Where does India stand?

India’s ranking has improved in this year’s index—where it stood at the 54th place in 2021, India is ranked 39 for enabling travel and tourism development this year. The report highlights that India is the highest-ranking lower-middle-income economy in the index and South Asia. The WEF recognises India to be highly price-competitive, possessing air transport and ground and port infrastructure. Moreover, the report highlights that the nation’s strong natural, cultural, and non-leisure resources, particularly, help in boosting India’s travel potential. Moreover, despite a decline compared to 2019, the economy still scores well for travel and tourism demand sustainability, thanks to more sustainable long stays among inbound visitors.

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What are the challenges?

Despite overcoming the initial shock of the global health crisis, the tourism sector still faces numerous external challenges. These include rising macroeconomic, geopolitical, and environmental risks, along with heightened scrutiny of sustainability practices and the influence of new digital technologies like big data and artificial intelligence. Additionally, ongoing labour shortages, inadequate air route capacity, capital investment, productivity, and other supply factors have not kept pace with growing demand. As per the report, this imbalance, aggravated by global inflation, has led to higher prices and service issues.

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In order to work around these challenges and overcome them, the WEF suggests decision-makers to prioritise actions such as leveraging tourism for nature conservation efforts; investing in skilled, inclusive and resilient workforces; strategically managing visitor behaviour and infrastructure development; encouraging cultural exchange between visitors and local communities; and using the tourism sector to bridge the digital divide. “If managed strategically, the travel and tourism sector—which has historically represented 10 percent of global GDP and employment—has the potential to emerge as a key contributor to the well-being and prosperity of communities worldwide,” said the WEF.