Friendliest country in the world named

Cold country, warm reception ... Iceland has been rated the world's most welcoming country for visitors.
Cold country, warm reception ... Iceland has been rated the world's most welcoming country for visitors. Photo: Getty Images

What is the friendliest country in the world for overseas visitors? It's not Australia – not by a long shot – a new study has found.

Australia placed only 27th on a list ranking countries' friendliness towards overseas visitors.

In the list of 140 countries ranked by the World Economic Forum, Australia was beaten by countries such as Yemen, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Unfriendly? Bolivia came bottom of the rankings on welcoming countries.
Unfriendly? Bolivia came bottom of the rankings on welcoming countries. Photo: Reuters

Despite its cold weather, visitors to Iceland will not receive a chilly reception - the country was named the world's friendliest, followed by New Zealand and Morocco.

Despite Australia's mediocre ranking, a spate of violence against Indians in Melbourne in 2009 and recent cases of racist taunts on public transport in Sydney and Melbourne, our tourist chiefs still say Aussies are a friendly lot.

"Australians are known the world over for their friendliness and the warm welcome they give our visitors," Tourism Australia's managing director Andrew McEvoy said.

“In our own most recent research, looking at consumers in 11 of our top inbound markets, Australia rated very highly in this area, particularly amongst those international visitors who have actually visited the country in person."

The acting chief executive officer of the Tourism & Transport Forum, Trent Zimmerman, said: "I think we have to take these findings from the WEF with a grain of salt, as Australians are known the world over for being a friendly mob.

“Recent research in Australia's top inbound source markets shows that 'welcoming people' are one of Australia's top drawcards, along with world-class beauty and a safe environment.

“The research also shows that people who have been to Australia rate it far higher for welcoming, friendly people and personal safety than those who have not visited."

The least friendly countries were, in descending order, Latvia, Kuwait, Russia, Venezuela and Bolivia coming in last.

The countries were rated by the WEF on a score of one to seven, measuring the extent to which a country and society were open to tourism and foreign visitors.

Top-ranked Iceland scored 6.8, while Australia scored 6.5 and bottom-of-the-list Bolivia 4.1.

Mr Zimmerman said the scores indicated minuscule differences between countries.

But British hotelier David Levin, who has visited Australia annually for 42 years, had a different view after his most recent visit, hitting out the standards of hotel service here.

“Many of the staff in leading Australian hotels don't understand the meaning of hospitality," Mr Levin told Fairfax Media. "A lot of them don't have a clue . . . They've forgotten about service.

"You can't say to a guest who is maybe hungry and jet-lagged that breakfast service is over. You should be giving your guest what they want. That is the meaning of hospitality and it seems to be getting lost".

Mr Levin's comments come at a time when the Australian hotel industry is concerned by an ongoing shortage of skilled staff.

Tourism Australia said 6.1 million overseas visitors came to Australia in 2012, a rise of about 5 per cent on 2011.

The World Economic Forum report praised Australia for having the highest number of World Heritage natural sites in the world, its diverse fauna and its comparatively pristine natural environment. It also scored points for having good air connections and transport infrastructure.

TOP 10 FRIENDLY COUNTRIES

1. Iceland

2. New Zealand

3. Morocco

4. Macedonia

5. Austria

6. Senegal

7. Portugal

8. Bosnia & Herzegovina

9. Ireland

10. Burkina Faso

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