The UK has risen high up a list of global destinations ranked by travel and tourism competitiveness despite a succession of government decisions harmful to tourism from raising Air Passenger Duty to vetoing Heathrow expansion.

The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report released this morning by the World Economic Forum ranks the UK number seven in a list of 139 countries and commends its “supportive policy environment”.

The last report in 2009 put the UK at number 11, making it the fastest-rising destination in the global top 10. Switzerland topped the rankings in both years.

The rankings are based on a Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index that assesses the advantages and disadvantages of destinations based on their regulatory framework, infrastructure, and human, cultural and natural resources.

This is backed by the assessments of organisations such as airline association IATA and the World Travel  and Tourism Council, and by an opinion survey of industry chief executives. Although the UK ranks seventh overall in the world, it is placed at number 21 in the regulatory framework rankings and eleventh for infrastructure.

However, only France is ranked higher among the leading outbound destinations from the UK, at number three. Spain is at number eight, Cyprus at 24 and Greece at 29. Leading long-haul destination the US is above the UK at number six.

The report, published today, notes: “The UK’s travel and tourism competitiveness is based on its excellent cultural resources, strong human resources and solid air transport infrastructure. The country also benefits from a supportive policy environment.”

It was launched at a Global Tourism Forum in Andorra, organised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). The ranking will surprise a UK tourism industry that greeted the government’s long-awaited tourism strategy last week with disdain.

The strategy document claimed to make tourism “a central part of Britain’s growth strategy” but failed to mention outbound travel. And damningly, inbound tourism association UKinbound said: “The policy does not address the fundamental issues.”