When travelling, the attitude of the natives can seriously affect how much you enjoy your stay. A warm welcome can boost your spirits and help you feel at home, whereas a frosty reception will have you feeling homesick before you've even spent a night in your host country. If a nationality gains a reputation for being particularly warm and welcoming - or conversely, particularly hostile to foreigners - it can have a marked influence on the nation's tourism industry.
The World Economic Forum’s 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report evaluates the tourism industries of economies around the world. The results are based on a survey distributed to business leaders in 140 nations, posing the question “How welcome are foreign visitors in your country?”. Those surveyed were asked to rate their homeland on a friendliness scale from 1 to 7.
The report extends all the way down to the countries perceived as most hostile to visitors, which include Bolivia, Russia, Pakistan and Venezuela. The United States comes an unimpressive 102nd on the list, despite its customer service staff being famed for their sunny demeanour and exclamations encouraging you to “Have a nice day!”. Canada does well, however, placing at number 12.
The following list contains several surprising entries, and could inspire you to take a trip to somewhere you might never have considered before.
10 Burkina Faso
The West African country of Burkina Faso is one of the poorest in the world in terms of GDP and receives only a small number of visitors each year. However, the tourism industry in the country is growing, perhaps encouraged by the geniality of its people. The scenery of Burkina Faso is breath-taking, ranging from natural waterfalls to wildlife parks. It also boasts a thriving artistic and musical community and is full of historical sites, making it one of the most appealing destinations on the continent for those who want to soak up some African culture.
Ireland is renowned for its fun-loving and generous people, who are always up for having the craic. The small European island takes pride in its picturesque countryside and unusual geographical formations, which include the Burren in the west and the Giant’s Causeway in the north. Head to Cork to kiss the Blarney Stone and be blessed with the gift of the gab, or experience Dublin’s buzzing nightlife. Wherever you go, you’re sure to be met with a smile.
8 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the most frequently visited countries in South-eastern Europe, and its tourism rates are growing rapidly every year. The nation is renowned for its natural beauty, its unusual architecture, its fine cuisine and its unique music. Many people also fly over to attend its well-respected festivals, which include the Sarajevo Film Festival and the Sarajevo Jazz Festival.
Portugal is one of the 20 most popular tourist destinations in the world, receiving around 13 million visitors a year. The country is blessed with warm weather, gorgeous beaches and staggeringly high cliffs, as well as medieval castles and adorable villages. Its Mediterranean cuisine is simple yet delicious, and music and dance festivals are organised throughout the year. It is one of the most peaceful countries in the world, with an extremely high quality of life, and its people are famous for their openness and kindness.
With deserted sandy beaches and tropical forests co-existing with glittering nightlife and urban chic, Senegal has a lot to offer to tourists. Particular places of interest include Gorée Island, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, the architecturally magnificent Saint-Louis, and the vibrant and modern capital, Dakar.
Austria is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, receiving over 23 million visitors in 2011. You may know it as the setting of The Sound of Music, but there is a lot more to the country than hills and yodelling. It offers luxurious ski resorts, glacial lakes, architectural wonders and spectacular views of the Alps. The nation is celebrated for its cultural heritage, and was the birthplace of many distinguished composers, including Mozart and Strauss. Its people are acclaimed for their politeness, and greeting strangers on the street is commonplace.
4 Macedonia, FYR
Macedonia is a desirable holiday spot, teeming with cultural and geographical attractions. Its steep mountains make it perfect for hiking, skiing and climbing, while its ancient ruins and monasteries will fascinate history buffs. It boasts a rich history of art, architecture, music and poetry and holds many annual festivals. Just as much of a draw, however, is the hospitality of its people, said to be some of the warmest in the world.
One of the most politically stable countries in North Africa, Morocco has a thriving tourist industry. Deeply Islamic and alluringly exotic, the nation attracts hordes of visitors for its beautiful coastlines, cosmopolitan cities and fascinating history. Moroccans are known for their helpful nature, and apparently love to show foreigners around and treat them to a cup of their special mint tea.
2 New Zealand
As evidenced by the Lord of the Rings films, New Zealand offers an array of sublime scenery, from volcanic forests and snowy mountains to golden beaches. It is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the world, and contains endless adventurous diversions such as white-water rafting and bungee jumping. Maori civilisation adds cultural interest, as tourists can sample their traditional food, hear their music and even witness a performance of the haka (the Maori war dance). According to the Rough Guide to New Zealand, kiwis are generally exuberant and generous by nature, with an overwhelmingly positive attitude to life.
Iceland’s chilly climate contrasts strongly with the warmth of its folk. Though its landscape is undoubtedly awe-inspiring, full of blazing volcanoes and gushing geysers, a trip to Iceland is as much about the people you meet as the sights you see. According to the Lonely Planet, travellers to the country should expect “complimentary cakes and cookies, friendly intellectual banter, invites to pub crawls, eager hiking buddies and 50 new Facebook friends when you return home”. Sounds good!