The 10 Best Countries for Tourism

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Tourism is an increasingly important industry for many countries. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), it accounts for 9% of global gross domestic product and is projected to represent one in every 10 jobs by 2022.

The World Economic Forum’s 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report analyzed 140 countries, ranking policies, infrastructure and resources that affect tourism. For the fifth consecutive year, Switzerland had the best tourism industry in the world. The United States rated sixth overall. Based on the WEF’s report, these are the 10 best countries for tourism.

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A review of the data shows that these countries do not rely on tourism. Unlike Jamaica and Barbados, where 15% or more of the national GDP comes from travel and tourism, it represents less than 6% of eight of the ten economies. It is just 1.3% of the U.S. economy.

Instead, these 10 countries are diverse, powerful, business-friendly economies. Evidence of this is their high GDP per capita. Only 25 of the 140 countries reviewed by the WEF have a GDP per capita of $35,000 or more. Of the 10 best countries for tourism, nine have a GDP per capita of at least $35,000 . In the majority, it is at least $40,000. These wealthy economies are able to develop the kind of infrastructures that make them attractive to tourists and to travelers.

Nearly all these countries have advantages over other countries’ tourism sectors because of their natural and cultural resources. Countries like Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom are full of UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites, fairs and exhibitions, and sports stadiums that draw people to travel there. The United States averaged 790 international fairs and exhibitions per year between 2009 and 2011, almost 200 more than the next-highest country

The U.S. has more natural heritage sites than every country, other than Australia and China. However, unlike most countries in the top 10, the United States ranked very low for efforts at sustaining its natural resources. All but two of the top 10 countries for travel and tourism were in the top 25 for long-term environmental sustainability. The U.S. ranked 112th.

Having a good business environment as well as travel infrastructure are crucial to attracting visitors through business, according to the study. The U.S. excels in this measure, as do top countries like Switzerland and Singapore.

The top 10 countries all have strong infrastructure. The U.S. is second overall in this air travel, for example. It does lag many of the top countries in ground transportation, for which it ranked 27th overall.

Based on data from the WEF’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 countries with the most competitive travel and tourism sectors.The WEF focused on three key areas — travel and tourism regulatory framework, travel and tourism business environment and infrastructure, and travel and tourism human, cultural and natural resources. Unemployment came from OECD, and is for the most recent available month.

These are the 10 best countries for tourism.