Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The World Economic Forum's Tourism Index in the South Caucasus

The Soviet Union was replete with traveler horror stories. So, more than a decade and a half down the road how have the countries of the Caucasus developed when it comes to tourism? The World Economic Form (WEF) has now developed the first comprehensive index to measure travel and tourism competitiveness. The WEF states that its index is not a "beauty contest" but concretely measures the attractiveness of developing a tourism industry in any given country. The scores are based on 15 variables grouped into three major categories -- regulatory framework, business environment and infrastructure, and human, cultural and natural resources. Each variable is ranked from 1-7. A country profile is also developed for each country to attractively display the data.

With a score of 4.13, Georgia ranks 66th in the world but number one in the CIS region -- though it is far outstripped by Estonia, which currently ranks 28th. Armenia and Azerbaijan follow closely on Georgian heels at 74th (3.93) and 75th (3.92) respectively. Tajikistan, not surprisingly, comes in last in the CIS region at 110th.

In the Caucasus, all countries do very well on the availability of human resources and none of the countries score particularly high on their natural and cultural resources (Armenia 78th, Georgia 81st, Azerbaijan 116th). Clearly, the authors of the report have not spent enough time in the region. Either that, or the indicators need to be adapted.

In the Georgia country profile (pdf), Georgia ranks low on all forms of infrastructure and somewhat better on the regulatory framework. Azerbaijan (pdf) does better on infrastructure, but worse on the regulatory framework, as expected. Armenia (pdf) splits the difference in the countries in terms of both infrastructure and regulatory framework issues.

1 comment:

Writer'n said...

"In the Caucasus, all countries do very well on the availability of human resources and none of the countries score particularly high on their natural and cultural resources (Armenia 78th, Georgia 81st, Azerbaijan 116th). Clearly, the authors of the report have not spent enough time in the region. Either that, or the indicators need to be adapted."

I think low score on natural resources can be linked to lacking infrastructure: Do you have natural resources when you can't see them? It is very difficult to reach the mountains (which I consider the Caucasus-brand) without helicopter, horse or a Niva. Once you leave the main road you are lost on more or less dissolving roads/tracs, lacking roadsigns, and when present, in georgian alphabet. Besides you wouldn't go off the main road as tourist in fear of being kidnapped, or shot by separatists (the popular opinion in the daily news). So the problem of low score in natural resources I think is related to infrastructure, prejudices and :-) philosophy.

As for cultural resources, they are present, but where? As far as I know there are a lot of galleries in Tbilisi, wineries..but where, folklore? ArtGene, ofcourse, architecture, martial arts, georgian singing, great churches..Plenty!. This is a marketing problem, and can easily be solved. Here I agree: The researchers have spent little time in reasearching.

Bottom line: Georgia has everything to offer. Human capital is exeptional, nature is exeptional, culture is breathtaking, but infrastructure is very bad. How can you enjoy all this when you don't know where it can be enjoyed and when? Infrastructure, language problems, and lack of marketing is the main reason I think for the low scores. But all that can be developed. Afterall Georgia has everything to offer the adventurer, but at this moment not enough to offer the mainstream tourist.