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UAE among countries most open to foreign travellers

Singapore earns highest score in terms of international openness

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Travelling is always an issue for a lot of UAE expats whose passports aren't widely accepted.

Dubai:  Do you always find it difficult to travel because your passport isn't widely accepted? You might want to look at the latest rankings of countries that are most open to foreign travellers.

Destinations in the Asia Pacific and South America are among the most welcoming places on earth in terms of visa policies, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). 

Countries like Singapore, Australia, Chile, Japan and New Zealand have been ranked in the top ten for “international openness” in the foundation’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, published this month. These destinations have earned the highest scores in terms of their willingness or ability to provide visa exemptions, visa on arrival or electronic visa to foreign visitors.

The UAE, which welcomed 14.4 million foreign guests in 2016, has not appeared in the top ten, but is ranked number one in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and 75th globally in the report, which is released every two years and rates the travel and tourism competitiveness of 136 countries.

It was announced early this year that the UAE will grant visas on arrival to visiting  Russians, among the biggest contributors to travel and tourism spending in the country.

Outside the region, West African destinations aren’t as friendly, as their visa policies are still considered very restrictive in many respects.

The report, however, noted that there is a growing number of countries that have loosened their visa policies, making it now easier for travellers to visit destinations and stimulating global tourism and trade in the process.

“The travel and tourism industry continues building bridges rather than walls between people travelling across borders and global trends towards adopting less restrictive visa policies,” the report states.

Among the countries monitored, the Republic of Korea is among those that have made remarkable progress in “international openness,” jumping 39 positions to the 14th place.  

India is likewise making a strong improvement, with its international openness ranked 55th globally, up 14 places, thanks to its implementation of visas on arrival and e-visas. Indonesia is showing great promise as well, ranking 17th globally, up 38 positions.

The international openness ranking is just one aspect of the report. Overall, the UAE, remained the most competitive economy for travel and tourism, ranking 29th globally, due to improved ICT infrastructure, lower costs, “partial improvements in international openness and some progress in nurturing cultural heritage.” These conditions, according to the report, have helped develop the travel and tourism sector.

The country logged 14.4 million foreign visitors in 2015, up by four million compared to two years earlier. The UAE’s overall ranking in the WEF report, however, fell by a few places because other destinations, such as South Korea and Greece, have performed exceptionally well during the review period. Nonetheless, the UAE’s business environment remains one of the highest rated globally.

Top 20 countries most open to foreign travellers*





5.New Zealand

6.El Salvador






12. Peru


14.Korea, Republic






20.United Kingdom

Top GCC countries most open to foreigners*





5. Kuwait

6. Saudi Arabia

*Based on "International Openness" ranking by the World Economic Forum