Government efforts to promote the tourism industry suffered a blow yesterday, with a global survey showing Taiwan plunging 22 places to 52nd and falling three notches to seventh in Asia in a world ranking of competitiveness.
The Geneva-based World Economic Forum's (WEF) Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2008 showed Taiwan not only lagged behind many Western countries, but had also been overtaken by regional competitors, such as South Korea (31), Malaysia (32) and Thailand (42).
The WEF launched its Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report last year, when Taiwan, scoring 4.82 on the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI), ranked 30th out of 124 countries, and fourth in Asia, after Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.
However, in this year's results, Taiwan scored 4.23 and lagged behind Asian neighbors such as Hong Kong (14), Singapore (16) and Japan (23). China ranked 62nd, an improvement from last year's 71st position.
Switzerland maintained top spot in this year's report, followed by Austria and Germany, while Australia, Spain, the UK, the US, Sweden, Canada and France rounded out the top 10 in that order.
The WEF gauged areas and countries' travel and tourism potential based on three major criteria -- travel and tourism regulatory framework; business environment and infrastructure; and human, cultural and natural resources.
The nation ranked 29th in terms of "business environment and infrastructure," but suffered huge drops in the "regulatory framework" and "human, cultural and natural resources" indexes, falling from 28th to 69th and 23rd to 79th respectively.
Based on the report's 14 "pillars," Taiwan was strong in "information and communication technology infrastructure," placing 10th, and in "ground transport infrastructure and human resources," ranking 13th.
However, weaknesses in "health and hygiene" (ranking 101st) and natural resources (103rd) pulled the nation's ranking down.
"Environmental sustainability" was given greater importance this year, underlining the fact that environmental conservation was firmly at the center of discussion on national travel and tourism competitiveness and in light of its importance in achieving long-term sustainable growth in the sector.
Taiwan fared poorly in the index of environmental sustainability, ranking 75th in environmental-related policies, compared with 21st last year.
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