Vietnam 's travel sector was ranked 14th in the region last year and 80th overall, up nine places since the last assessment in 2009, according to the recent Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011 from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Vietnam 's higher position can be attributed to its rich cultural resources (ranked 36th), with several World Heritage cultural sites, international fairs and exhibitions, and its strong creative industries.

"Another attraction is Vietnam 's natural resources, ranked 24th for its World Heritage natural sites and diverse fauna. These attributes are reinforced by the country's price competitiveness (16th)," the report stated.

However, in order to strengthen competitiveness, the WEF report recommended that, " Vietnam must further develop its transport infrastructure and tourism infrastructure (110th and 115th), while ensuring that the sector is developed in an environmentally sustainable way."

In addition, many tour operators in Vietnam complain about the country's poor tourism infrastructure.

The WEF report also revealed that Vietnam 's tourism infrastructure ranked low in both international and regional fields, standing at 110th out of 139. Vietnam received a score of 0.2 for the number of hotel rooms per 100 people, ranking 89th among 139 countries. Meanwhile Singapore , Malaysia and Thailand came in at 37th, 48th and 53rd, respectively.

The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011 is published within the framework of the Centre for Global Competitiveness and Performance and the Industry Partnership Programme for Aviation, Travel&Tourism.

The aim of the Travel&Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI), which covered a record 139 economies last year, is to provide a comprehensive strategic tool for measuring "the factors and policies that develop the travel sectors in different countries."

"The detailed assessments of travel and tourism environments in countries world-wide can improve the industry's competitiveness in their national economies, thereby contributing to national growth and prosperity. It also allows countries to track their progress over time in the various areas measured," the report said.

The criteria for ranking are based on three broad categories. These categories include the subindexes of the Travel and Tourism (T&T) regulatory framework; the T&T business environment and infrastructure; and the T&T human, cultural, and natural resources.

The three subindexes cover policy rules and regulations; environmental sustainability; safety and security, health and hygiene; prioritisation of T&T; air transport infrastructure; ground transport infrastructure; tourism infrastructure; ICT infrastructure; price competitiveness in the T&T industry, human resources; affinity for T&T; natural resources; cultural resources.

Since the last assessment in 2009, the tourism sector in the world has faced a myriad of obstacles. It is now emerging from the most difficult period in its recent history. The industry has faced not only a global economic crisis and volatile oil prices, but also climatic disturbances, multiple security incidents, pandemics, and strikes among industry personnel.

"Following all these shocks, the global sector is now witnessing a gradual recovery, with emerging markets leading the way. Indeed, after a significant contraction in 2009, international tourist arrivals picked up again in 2010 and have returned to their pre-crisis peak level," the report stated.

The World Travel&Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that from direct and indirect activities, the travel sector now accounts for a remarkable 9.2 percent of global GDP, 4.8 percent of world exports, and 9.2 percent of world investment.-VNA