The World Economic Forum report on global tourism has an interesting map showing each country in the world’s attitude towards foreign visitors. Countries are colored based on how favorable they are (blue) or how unfavorable they are (red). What makes the map so interesting is that some of the countries that you would expect to be favorable (hence blue) are actually red and those you would expect to be red (unfavorable) are blue.
If you have not seen the map (see below) ask yourself which countries you would expect to be in the blue color and which would be in the red? You might be amazed at the findings: parts of West Africa and even Yemen are in the most welcoming category, while parts of Europe are in the least welcoming? Having traveled extensively I can positively affirm that Iran is one of the most friendly countries to foreigners that I have ever visited. I started going over 12 years ago and this has not changed, despite that country’s standing vs. the rest of the world. Surprisingly for me Iran is in red on the map. Pakistan is another country that I found to offer a warm welcome everywhere that I went. It is also in the red category, although perhaps that change has to do with their turbulent history during the last 15 – 20 years. I was last in Pakistan in 1987 when things were a lot calmer. Saudi Arabia and Russia are also in red but I can understand that based on their history and culture and the fact that these countries are or have been closed off to foreigners for so long. But Ecuador or Denmark? How to explain that? The Washington Post author of the article suggests that a strong dose of nationalism may have something to do with it but even he finds that theory falters upon deeper investigation.
This article has made me question which countries I have found to be the friendliest and why? Does economy have anything to do with it? I don’t think so as Iran and Pakistan are relatively poor countries yet the locals were very warm and friendly to visitors. Indonesia was another country I found welcoming to foreign travelers. Bolivia was found to be “anti- foreigner” and this matched my personal experience (It was the only place I have ever been where I thwarted a brazen day-time theft of my belongings). But could it be that a country's attitude to foreigners might fluctuate like their economy or even the weather? I have always said I would visit any country twice, as sometimes you can go somewhere and everything just goes wrong. Return a second time and all goes well. Which trip do you base your judgment on? Who knows, perhaps the surveys hit some countries at a low time and the replies were not that favorable as they might be later on?
I find that my attitude to those I meet on my travels has the strongest effect on the reception I get. Go in happy, courteous and generally interested in their lifestyle, culture and country and I find you will tend to get the best response back – i.e. a welcoming reception.