The newly published MEANINGFUL TOURISM INDEX 2023 ranks the sustainability of the 88 most important countries for international tourism. Bulgaria misses to make it to a ranking in the top 15 of any of the seven main categories. The best ranking is just in the middle of upper half at position 21, while the worst ranking is just shy of the bottom 10 at position 74. Overall, Bulgaria reaches in the ranking the 53rd rank, with only 37 out of 100 possible points. The best – or least bad – result the country achieved is based on the benefits and satisfaction of the host community.
The Index is published by the Meaningful Tourism Center, based in Hamburg, and is freely available in English as a download using the link: https://meaningful-tourism.com/meaningful-tourism-index/. It uses 72 indicators to cover seven different categories: The basic situation of the national tourism industry and infrastructure and the sustainability of the situation of the six main stakeholders in terms of quality, benefits, and satisfaction. The six stakeholders are the travellers, the host community, the employees in tourism companies, the tourism service providers, the governments and finally the environment.
The overall winners of the Meaningful Tourism Index 2023 are Aruba, Iceland, and Switzerland. They are also the only three countries reaching more than 50% of the possible points, showing that there is still a long way to go to reach a sustainable form of international tourism.
At the bottom of the list are Lebanon, Nigeria, and Iraq.
At least Bulgaria can enjoy a quantum of solace by the fact that some of the neighboring countries covered by the Index, Serbia and Türkiye, are both below Bulgaria in the rankings.
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt, CEO of the Meaningful Tourism Center and leader of the researcher team for the Meaningful Tourism Index 2023: “Our approach is based on the insight that sustainable tourism can only be created if all stakeholders are satisfied with the benefits they get out of tourism. Tourists are neither kings nor the enemy of the locals. Visitors will not be happy when the locals do not welcome them, employees do not want to work in the industry and the environment suffers. At the same time companies must earn money and the governments on different levels need to be able to promote employment and regional development. To concentrate only on one or two stakeholders or only on the growth of arrival numbers simply does not work, as experience has shown. Happy locals and happy employees produce satisfied visitors, who spend more, care more about the local environment and recommend the destination to their friends.”
International tourism organizations like the UNWTO World Tourism Organisation of the United Nations or the ETC European Travel Commission are all agreeing that after the strong period of quantitative growth before the pandemic, now the focus has to be moved to qualitative growth of international tourism. Bulgaria’s Caretaker Tourism Minister Ilin Dimitrov has also expressed his perception for practicing sustainability, noting that “the Tourism Ministry is currently working to implement the vision outlined in the Plan 2014-2030 for Bulgaria, to establish itself as a preferred destination for sustainable four-seasons tourism”, during a discussion on Sustainable tourism in practice as part of the second day of the Holiday and Spa Expo at Inter Expo Centre in Sofia 2023.
The Meaningful Tourism Index for countries will be published annually. The 2023 edition covers the 88 most important international tourism destination countries, representing together almost 90% of the global tourism turnover.
Further Meaningful Tourism Indexes for cities and for hotels will be published later this year.
The Meaningful Tourism Center offers workshops and trainings to private companies and public institutions based on the detailed results and data for all 72 indicators. This way, recommendations and action plans can be developed for a more sustainable and meaningful tourism in Bulgaria, resulting hopefully in the coming edition of the Meaningful Tourism Index in a higher position in the rankings for Bulgaria and in more satisfied stakeholders.