The UK may have risen up a World Economic Forum list of countries ranked by tourism competitiveness, but its performance on a host of government-policy measures was dismissed as “appalling“ by the list’s authors yesterday (Monday March 7).

The WEF Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report published on Monday ranked the UK number seven in a list of 139 countries, four places higher than in 2009, and above major outbound destinations like Spain.

However, the ranking was largely due to high standards of public health, current level of air services and availability of car hire, and an improvement in price due to a lower exchange rate of sterling over the last two years.

The assessment of the UK government’s tourism credentials in the WEF report was damning.

The UK ranked just 134 out of 139 countries on tax and airport charges, and at number 116 on the level of fuel prices. It ranked 84 on government expenditure on travel and tourism, at number 43 on the effectiveness of its marketing and branding, and at number 46 on the timeliness of providing tourism data – the lowest ranking among developed economies.

The report shines a harsh light on government policy toward tourism in a number of other areas.

The UK is number 50 out of 139 in the “time required to start a business” and at number 34 in the “transparency of government policymaking”. It is ranked at 89 for “tourism openness” and at 74 in the WEF assessment of the attitude of the UK population toward foreign visitors – in other words, how welcoming we are.

The UK even rates poorly on the issue of sustainability, despite claiming to lead the world in this area. It is ranked 106 out of 139 countries in dealing with carbon-dioxide emissions and at 66 on the sustainability of travel and tourism development.

Report co-author Thea Chiesa, World Economic Forum head of aviation, travel and tourism, told Travel Weekly: “The UK is appalling on all the tourism-related activities.”

Fellow co-author Jennifer Blanke, lead economist at the World Economic Forum, added: “The infrastructure is all there in developed economies, but then governments mess it up with their policy. The UK should be leading on marketing and branding but it is at 43. Even the timeliness of its reporting is poor.”