Sunday, March 17, 2013

Misleading report by World Economic Forum

 The World Economic Forum (WEF) has recently issued its new report called The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013. Without a doubt, it was a huge project with tremendous volume of work and I believe that most of the facts and analysis  may be correct or close to be correct because of many sources of information they used. There was one thing I wanted to address though, and this is the fact that Mongolia was named as the unfriendliest country when it comes to foreign visitors. And this is ridiculous!

Overall Mongolia is  ranked  99th out of 140 countries with a score of 3.63 in a scale of 1-7  in 2013 report. Two years ago the rank was 101st.  Switzerland is  ranked first with an index (TTCI) of 5.66, followed by Germany, Austria, Spain, UK, US, France, Canada, Sweden, Singapore in the top ten.
(see for more: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_TT_Competitiveness_Report_2013.pdf)

The following  key elements were used  to determine the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) for each country:
- Policy rules and regulations
-  Environmental sustainability
- Safety and security
- Health and hygiene
- Prioritization of travel and tourism
- Air transport infrastructure
- Ground transport infrastructure
- Tourism infrastructure
- ICT infrastructure
- Price competitiveness in the travel and tourism industry
- Human resources
- Affinity for travel and tourism
- Natural resources
- Cultural resources

In the category  called  "Affinity for travel and tourism" there are 4  subdivisions  like  "Tourism openness", "Attitude of population toward foreign visitors", "Extension of business trips recommended" and "Degree of customer orientation". One of them, the most interesting one maybe, is the "Attitude of population toward foreign visitors" and shockingly and to my great surprise, Mongolia "qualified" as one of  the worst country to visit. Or to be exact, Mongolians are the most unfriendliest nation among the 140  countries taken into examination.  Check below:

Attitude of  population toward foreign visitors:
 (How welcome are foreign visitors to your country?)
(Scale: 1= very unwelcome, 7= very welcome)

Countries with good  attitude

1. Iceland                           6.8
2. New Zealand                  6.8
3. Morocco                        6.7
4. Macedonia                     6.7
5. Austria                            6.7
6. Senegal                           6.7
7. Portugal                          6.6
8. Bosnia and Herzegovina  6.6
9. Ireland                            6.6
10. Burkina Faso                6.6

Countries with bad  attitude

1. Bolivia                        4.1
2. Venezuela                   4.5
3. Russian Federation     5.0
4. Kuwait                       5.2
5. Latvia                         5.2
6. Iran                            5.2
7. Pakistan                      5.3
8. Slovak Republic          5.5
9. Bulgaria                       5.5
10. Mongolia      5.5

What  a  disgrace!  Born to be a Mongol and raised as a Mongol, I know enough how we Mongols behave toward  "strangers".  As matter of fact, Mongols are well-known for their hospitality and friendliness toward strangers no matter whether it is an own country man or a foreigner. Food and drinks are offered, at no cost, and locals would help any way they can without demanding something in return. Countryside is the only place foreign tourists  would go because of the wild nature and unique nomadic culture, so foreigners would mostly get in contact  with  local population  during their  traveling. Tourists wouldn't stay in the cities since there are not much to see except some museums but  in cities foreign visitors are safe and welcomed too. On a very rare occasion  one might hear that a foreigner  (who may live and work in city)  would  robbed while walking late night alone and some poor or drunk person   was to blame.  Tourists never go alone at late night. Other than that Mongolia is a trouble-free country to visit. 

I wonder where the authors  of this report, put out  by the  WEF  , got the idea to classify Mongolia as the unfriendliest country to visit. There must be real bad experiences and facts related to foreign tourists who visited Mongolia in the past to prove that they were treated so badly, but I haven't heard anything  of that nature by myself.  So how come Mongolia ended up being among the last countries on the list?  Based on what?! 

Yeah, yeah, we are far away from being "Switzerland-type"  country where everything is so perfect. So I don't argue with all other outcomes (remember the 14 categories?) in different areas and the overall score (3.63) and the ranking (99th)  "pinned"  on  us because I know that  lot  of things need to be improved, beginning with air and ground transportation, tourism infrastructure etc. But I am talking about our attitude toward  foreign people and the fact being declared  as the one with bad attitude. That hurts.

By the way, I want  also point out that  Mongolia is not a travel destination  for people who would prefer fancy and luxury tour with everything imaginable on hand, if that was the main reason to "punish" Mongolia. It could be. Tourists who got used to have everything handy when they needed and that wasn't the case when they came to Mongolia, and that is when they start complaining. That  is my guess. I couldn't think of any other  reason to call us as the bad ones. 

For those who choose to visit us, I say again that Mongolia  is a spot for those who like adventure, and would not fear any "outdoor-challenge" and "roughness". It is not a place to visit  for "soft" people. Having said that, I am afraid that this challenging and "raw" conditions  should stay intact because that is  the magnet to attract people who are "tired" of "robotic" city-life and wanted to be "out" even for a couple of weeks.

Anyway, the question was whether or not  Mongols were friendly toward  foreign  visitors and  the answer to  this question was  way too wrong and misleading! It is up to our readers whom to believe, us  or WEF, but  my advice is to make as many  researches as possible, like questioning people visited Mongolia in the past  and/or reading any available information online related to this matter , and make own decision based on information collected.  

It was not my intention to  "mess" with WEF, but, hey, this report was made by humans who could make mistakes because of the false information they got from somewhere, somehow and this is not unusual. So I try to correct this mistake "my way" to lessen the bad consequences coming from this report, in particular from this classification, declaring  Mongolia as one of the  "hostile nations" to foreign tourists. 

There is a saying, "Seeing just ones by own eyes is better than hearing thousand times", and if you are not so "fragile" and love "outdoor activities", you are welcomed to visit Mongolia and  experience  our hospitality and friendship while enjoying the wild nature. "Go nomadic. Experience Mongolia" is  our  slogan for advertising   Mongolia's tourism, so come and visit us! 


  1. You should ask the Open Society Forum about this. Looks like they contributed to it from Mongolia.
    page viii

  2. I've lived in Mongolia several years, and I'm happy to read in that report what I feel, specially in Ulaanbaatar. But even in Erdenet, no later than yesterday, a non-drunk aggressive tall man asked me my papers and blocked my way, in front of 2 others who didn't help me at all. He was not an official, just one of many Mongolian who don't like foreigners in Mongolia and wanted to frighten me (ironically, Erdenet city has been founded by foreigners). Western embassies keep complaining about insecurity, specially against foreigners. Foreigners are not "occasionally robbed" but extremely often in Ulaanbaatar. Nearly every time I go to Ulaanbaatar, just for a few days, someone tries to rob me, and sometimes succeeds. The law and the way the police works is such that most petit crimes are not reported officially, because of the complicated procedure. So officially Mongolia is a paradise.
    Unsurprisingly, Ulaanbaatar ("UB") is also very bad for blood crime: there
    is the "2011 Global Study on Homicide" by the United nations office on drugs and crime. Page 119 (121 of the file), you can see that there are cities much more dangerous than UB, in south or central America, such as Caracas, Port au Prince or Guatemala city, but Ulaanbaatar is globally among the bad ones, worse than all the 37 European cities studied, worse than the 2 northern American cities studied, ranking second in murder rate amongst the 32 Asian cities studied, slightly better than the sole Timor-Leste; and among the 16 African cities compared, only 4 are worse than UB.

  3. No questions that there are many crimes occurring where in most cases alcohol is involved. Honestly I don't believe that foreigners are robbed "extremely often". And if some poor and/or drunk idiots try to rob a foreigner, they do it because they think that foreigners must have lot of money (rich), but not because they hate foreigners. They just need the money. It is not meant as an excuse but since the subject was about friendliness toward foreigners I must say one should not confuse or connect the robbery with the hatred. It is about attitude of population toward foreigners and not about domestic crimes.
    As Mogi said, "somebody" is responsible for providing some false and misleading data which helped to ruin our image and I will "scrutinize" if my time allows the Open Society Forum which seems to be the primary suspect for now.

  4. Sometimes, it is just so hard to believe that your fellow countrymen would do such horrible things. It is true that Mongolians are hospitable especially those who are in the countryside. I am an Asian too and is married to a European. We are both living in Mongolia, not in UB but a province which is 3 hours away. From time to time, we go to UB to buy and get what we need. My husband also goes there for meetings at times. THere were a lot of times when people try to steal something from him. Also even when we go out together. Luckily for us, they havent been successful but the fact remains that they tried to steal from foreigners. Not only that, they give angry stares at us and sometimes even shouted at. We have been here for 2 years already and the question "Where does all the hatred for foreigner really come from?". My husband and I have been travelling to a lot of places but Mongolia seems to be by far the most unfriendly place we have been too. Dont get me wrong but this is a wonderful place here, the nature and everything. The statistics wouldnt just make up their own numbers. There are really a great number of foreigners here who just simply have the same thought as me.

    1. I am sorry to hear that you had or still having bad experiences in UB. But I still believe that pocket thieves and robbers do act out of pure "financial interests", trying to steal whatever they can. These bad guys don't "discriminate", it does not matter whether the victim is a native or a foreigner. I heard there are actually many gangs of thieves operating in UB. So, again, poverty and social distress make the poor angry.

      Some Politicians do exercise extreme nationalism and contribute to this by blaming the foreign companies for all this mess like stating that foreign companies "rob" our wealth (meaning the mining)and leaving us a little or nothing. That "trick" pictures foreigners badly while giving the nationalist politician a "good credit", and some people really buy it. That results in "angry stares and shouting at" type of actions or behavior. But one should not apply this to the general population. It shouldn't be used as a measurement simply to declare as the attitude of the entire nation toward foreign visitors.

      I don't know what the statistics, used by the World Economic Forum, say but if those foreigners who were somehow affected from all these harassment and bothering have reported all the incidents, then no wonder what picture the WEF would draw.
      It is sad to hear that there are a great number of foreigners who think like you, but again one should distinguish pocket theft from hospitality.
      Thanks for your input, Mel!