This least friendly country thing is bollocks

It wasn’t inspiring when, not only could we not find a decent guidebook for Pakistan, the first hit on the Rough Guide website when searching “Pakistan” was a claim that it was the third least friendly country in the world for tourists. It’s a claim that has also been repeated by the Huffington Post and CNN.

The list that they site comes from the World Economic Forum as part of its work on Travel and Tourism Competitiveness. The top two ‘least friendly countries’  area apparently Venezuela and Bolivia where we’ve been. Reading this I call bollocks. The people in Venezuela were lovely, despite the fact that their country was falling apart around them. And the people in Bolivia were also super friendly, except perhaps for the witches. Other countries in the top ten don’t stack up either: Trinidad and Tobago, Latvia, Slovakia? Really? How about Iraq or Syria? How about frickin’ North Korea? Surely letting foreign visitors into your country is a prerequisite for friendliness.

So I dug into this a bit more. I can’t get to the raw WEF data without a log in you need to pay for, but best as I can tell, what they call “Affinity for Travel and Tourism” the mainstream media had reported as friendliness. Which is more, the WEF’s ranking relies heavily on their survey of global executives. This has a couple of big problems. First off, not everyone who travels is an executive looking for the things an executive is looking for. I completely accept that neither Bolivia nor Venezuela would be a great place to do business right now. Their governments are unpredictable and their attitude towards foreign investors punitive. That will colour an executive’s experience, but not a backpacker or other holiday maker. Second, my suspicion is that countries were executives tend not to travel much (ahem, Sub-Sharan Africa and the war town Middle East) just don’t get rated.

You really want to test the friendliness of a country, you need a much larger cross section of travelers than those who sit around boardroom tables.

One thought on “This least friendly country thing is bollocks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *