The UK was ranked seventh out of 139 countries in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report, rising four places since the last report two years ago. Switzerland came in top for the second year running, followed by Germany, France and Austria.
Despite widespread fears that the raising of Air Passenger Duty would harm the global competitiveness of the UK’s aviation and tourism industry and dampen economic growth, the destination leapt up the list.
“We got there because of our inheritance and not so much because of our current policies,” admitted Christopher Rodrigues, chairman of VisitBritain, the national tourism agency in an interview with the Daily Telegraph at the Global Tourism Forum in Andorra.
The report ranked the UK third in terms of cultural resources, eighth for its strong human resources and fifth for its air transport infrastructure.
But the UK came in at 134th out of a total of 139 countries in the competitiveness of its air ticket prices and airport charges, above only Senegal, Mali, the Ivory Coast and Chad.
The Air Passenger Duty was controversially raised last November with the tax on some flights through British airports growing by more than 50 per cent.
“The report shows that British tourism industry is doing well and we are delighted to rise through the ranks,” said Mr Rodrigues. “But it also shows that we could do even better and highlights those areas where improvement is not only desirable but also achievable.”
He said that forthcoming events, including the royal wedding in April and the Olympic Games in 2012 were a “wonderful opportunity” to promote Britain as a top tourist destination.
“We don’t want to fail to achieve our potential because we ignore those areas where improvement is possible,” he said.