Survey Ranks ‘World’s Most Unfriendliest’ Countries

Have you ever been to a country that just seems to give tourists the cold shoulder? Now, there are some figures behind those unwelcome feelings; the World Economic Forum has put together a report that ranks countries based on how friendly they are to tourists.

The extensive analyses ranks 140 countries according to attractiveness and competitiveness in the travel and tourism industries. But one category, “attitude of population toward foreign visitors,” stands out.

According the data, Bolivia (pictured above) ranked as the most unfriendly country, scoring a 4.1 out of seven on a scale of “very unwelcome” (0) to “very welcome” (7).

Next on the list were Venezuela and the Russian Federation, followed by Kuwait, Latvia and Iran (perhaps when visiting one of these countries, you should try your best to not look like a tourist?).

On the opposite side of the scale were Iceland, New Zealand and Morocco, which were ranked the world’s most welcoming nations for visitors.

Tourism infrastructure, business travel appeal, sustainable development of natural resources and cultural resources were some of the key factors in the rankings. Data was compiled from an opinion survey, as well as hard data from private sources and national and international agencies and organizations such as the World Bank/International Finance Corporation and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), among others.

The report also emphasized the need for continued development in the travel and tourism sector, pointing out that the industry currently accounts for one in 11 jobs worldwide.

All of the results of the survey can be found after the jump.

Attitude of population toward foreign visitors
(1 = very unwelcome; 7 = very welcome)

Friendliest

1. Iceland 6.8
2. New Zealand 6.8
3. Morocco 6.7
4. Macedonia, FYR 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

Unfriendliest

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

Have you ever visited somewhere where they didn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat? Alternatively, have you visited somewhere on the “unfriendly” list and had a great, welcoming experience? Let us know how your travel experiences compare with the survey’s ranking in the comments below.

[via CNN]

[Photo credit: Phil Whitehouse, Wikimedia Commons]

The Search for Kuwaiti Cuisine … in Kuwait

The Search for Kuwaiti Cuisine ... in KuwaitPeople don’t come to Kuwait to drink alcohol. Nor do they come to eat pork. They also don’t arrive expecting to see pitbulls, to smoke marijuana, to watch Michael’s Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, or to look at any sort of pornography. It’s all banned in Kuwait (with harsh penalties for lawbreakers).

For tourists who hate being around other tourists, this desert country is an oasis: there are no tourists traps because, well, there really are no tourists here. Every place is an off-the-radar local spot.

It’s not surprise, then, that another aspect that’s not pulling people to Kuwait is the food. That’s because if you ask a local, as I did during a recent visit to this conservative and diminutive Middle Eastern state on the Gulf of Arabia, your question about the local cuisine will be greeted with a shrug. That is, until a Lebanese friend who lives in Kuwait City (one of the initial shruggers) called her boyfriend who called another friend who recommended one of the small handful of Kuwaiti restaurants in town.


In most countries, there are ethnic restaurants and then there are restaurants serving the default local cuisine. Here in Kuwait, however, it’s the other way around. One has to seek out a Kuwaiti restaurant; otherwise, you end up at a Lebanese place (which is the best of the best when it comes to eating in the Middle East), as I did at the excellent at Burj Al Hamam or Italian or Spanish (I had very good versions of both at the in-house restaurants in the new Hotel Missoni). Or perhaps one of the many unfortunate American chain restaurants (Applbee’s, TGI Friday’s, Ruby Tuesday) that have set up shop here.
The entrance to Freej Swaileh is around the back from bustling Salem al Mubarak Street. Descend the broken escalator to the darkened basement to find a dining room separated by private booths. Dining privacy is important, especially if you’re a burqa-clad woman, so you can eat without the hassle of the burqa getting in the way.

The servers knock on the door before each visit. And when my waiter came to take my order, I just pointed to various items, not sure what any of it was. About 15 minutes later, my juice mocktail almost drained, the server knocked and entered with several plates. There was chicken majboos (see photo), a biryani-like recipe with a tender half chicken set atop rice and a tomato-based sauce on the side; markookh, a stewy lamb-laden dish with eggplant; and jireesh, a mash of spelt with lamb mixed in.

It turns out, Kuwaiti cuisine is really just an amalgamation of other cuisines: Persian, Indian, Lebanese, for example. According to Abdul Fatah Marafie, who comes from one of the richest families in the country, Kuwaiti cuisine began with the date trade. “The dates came from Iraq,” he said when I somewhat randomly met him and expressed my bewilderment with the lack of local cuisine. “Then they came here to Kuwait where we transported them to places like India and Iran and Arabia. We came back with spices and added them to our cuisine.”

Which is why these dishes all tasted familiar. And why it wasn’t a surprise when the waiter knocked one last time and brought in a try full of gulab jamun, fried syrup-laden dough balls from India….er I mean…legaimat, as they’re called in Kuwait.

Eight interesting facts about North Korea’s airline

What do you know about Air Koryo? Probably not much. The state-run airline for North Korea, it’s the only realistic way you can fly into the country, unless you have some sort of crazy commando resources at your disposal. Of course, there’s a lot you have to do before booking your ticket, and getting a visa can be quite difficult for Americans and other westerners. If you do make it through the red tape though, you’ll find yourself with more options than you realized.

So, ready to book your trip to Arirang and sample the beer and pizza of the most reclusive nation on the planet? Here’s what you need to know about the airline that will take you there:

%Gallery-105693%1. More destinations than you’d expect: the Beijing-Pyongyang route is the one for which Air Koryo is “famous,” but the state-sponsored airline actually connects to eight other cities: Moscow Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Shenyang, Shanghai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Kuwait City. Of course, if you want to use these cities to enter North Korea, you’ll still need to jump through the many hoops necessary to secure a visa.

2. Road warriors don’t get squat: are you a frequent flier to North Korea? Well, don’t expect much in exchange for your loyalty. While airlines around the world offer rewards programs, a mileage run on Air Koryo is worthless, as the carrier doesn’t have a program, according to a comment it made on its Facebook page.

3. A new home: as of July 15, 2011, the airline’s new terminal at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang is open for business! The airline claims on Facebook, “The new terminal features modernised facilities for luggage, security, customs, border control and the list goes on to an extent.”

4. Mongolia may be next: it’s always hard to tell when Air Koryo is going to add a route, but this comment to a prospective customer offers some hope: “Flights to Uanbator have been tossed up for a while now, since there is a decent amount of DPRK citizens traveling to Mongolia for a number of reasons. Also vice versa. We havn’t [sic] heard of any flights for August, but we will make some inquiries.”

5. Kuwait’s on the map for a reason: it may not be as busy as the New York-to-London route, but Pyongyang and Kuwait City seem to comprise an important city-pair for Air Koryo. According to the person operating the Air Koryo Facebook page, “Between 5 and 10,000 North Korean workers currently reside in Kuwait. These numbers change weekly with the flights by Air Koryo now enabling the DPR Korean direct flights to Pyongyang.”

6. True dialogue in social media: social media marketers have always discussed the importance of “dialogue” via social media, rather than generating revenue. Well, Air Koryo is a fantastic model. A user responded to the above claim about North Koreans living in Kuwait, “‎between 5 and 10000″ … Wow, that is an accurate answer !” The airline’s intended range was probably “between 5,000 and 10,000,” but the fan appears to have a fetish for the exact. Showing a bit of style, Air Koryo replied, “We’re [not] exactly demographers here, so exact figures are beyond us. Sorry.” The missing word in the response makes the whole exchange even funnier.

7. Online check-in: okay, this is not in Air Koryo’s future, probably because the carrier has a different set of priorities. According to SFGate: “‘You kidding right?’ Air Koryo responded. “There are many things to do before even looking at ‘Online check-in’ such as actually creating a website.'”

8. Don’t expect much love from the cabin crew: in the United States, you only need to worry about bad serviceand the occasional meltdown. In North Korea, the flight attendants will great you with such pleasantries as “I hate America!” But, they do follow it with, “What would you like to drink today, sir?”

Sir?! Now that’s service!

[photos via Wikipedia]

New luxury hotel to open in Kuwait

Hotel Missoni announced it will launch its newest luxury property in Kuwait this fall. The hotel, set to open September 2010, will be succeeded by Hotel Missoni openings in South Africa (2011), Brazil (2012) and Oman (2012).

The Hotel Missoni Kuwait is the second property and the first resort to be launched under the new hotel brand. Hotel Missoni is part of the designer-turned-hotelier trend we’ve witnessed in the industry. The hotel group focuses on the style of the iconic fashion and interiors label, spearheaded by Hotel Missoni Creative Director Rosita Missoni.

The new Kuwait hotel will be located near the main shopping area of Kuwait City, overlooking the Arabian Sea. The hotel is part of a new development that also houses a large shopping mall, apartments and offices.

Hotel Missoni Kuwait will have a total of 169 rooms and suites, all of which have sea views. Each guest room has an in-suite bathroom complete with custom-scented Missoni bath amenities. The 63 suites range from 805 square feet to the 2,260-square-foot Presidential Suite, which also boasts a 970-square-foot outdoor terrace.

The Hotel Missoni Kuwait will also host a swimming pool with mosaic floor in a signature Missoni stripe; 13,000-square-foot Six Senses Spa; Rosita Missoni’s family recipes at Cucina restaurant; 18th floor bar with Arabian Sea views and private access to a mixed-use luxury retail development, which will include a Missoni boutique.

Iraqi Airways shuts down after dispute with Kuwait over aircraft theft

State owned Iraqi airlines has been forced to declare bankruptcy. The airline had been around for decades, and when they tried to restart operations with regular Baghdad-London operations, they ran into a nasty reminder of their past.

Upon landing at London’s Gatwick airport, the airline was confronted by lawyers representing the state of Kuwait. Apparently, the Iraqi’s had helped themselves to aircraft and aircraft parts during the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

With a bill of over $1.2 billion, Iraqi airlines had no other option than to declare bankruptcy.

Because Iraqi airlines chartered its planes from other air carriers, the Kuwaiti authorities were not able to confiscate them. In the coming days, the airline will cease all flights. The Iraqi government calls the claims by Kuwait “harassment”, but they don’t seem to be denying the claims of theft from 20 years ago.

(Image: Getty Images/AFP)