The UAE, ranked 29th globally overall, well ahead of its nearest regional challenger Qatar.
Dubai - The country is also ranked the most safest country in the Gulf region.
The UAE is the second safest country in the world behind only Finland, according to a report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).
"It is also one of the most secure destinations (2nd), and has a well-developed hospitality and entertainment infrastructure (27th)," said the report.
The country continues to be the most competitive economy for developing its travel and tourism sector in the Middle East and North Africa and ranks number two globally for tourism safety, latest data from World Economic Forum shows.
The UAE, ranked 29th globally overall, well ahead of its nearest regional challenger Qatar (47th), continued to improve its performance with its score rising 1.4 per cent since 2015, the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism (T&T) Competitiveness Report 2017 said.
Spain tops the 2017 edition of the TTCI global rankings for the second time, followed by France (2nd), Germany (3rd), Japan (4th, gaining five places), the UK (5th), the US (6th, losing two places), Australia (7th), Italy (8th), Canada (9th, up one) and Switzerland (10th, losing four places).
Also read: UAE ranked world's third safest country last year
The UAE, despite these improvements, fell by a few positions in the rankings, due to exceptional performances of countries in other regions, in particular, South Korea and Greece.
The report said the UAE, which welcomed 14.4 million international visitors in 2015, four million more than two years earlier, continues to offer an outstanding business environment to invest in T&T activities (5th), with advanced ICT readiness (15th) and one of the best air transport infrastructures in the world (3rd), in terms of both connectivity and quality of the service.
The report noted that to improve its competitiveness further, the UAE should focus on becoming more open (75th), expanding its health facilities, and making better use of its natural resources (91st).
"While the UAE has significantly developed certain segments of cultural tourism, including international conferences and car racing, natural tourism remains an untapped resource for the country," said the report. The UAE's tourism and leisure sector, a key pillar to prop the nation's post-oil economy, is projected to reach Dh237 billion by year 2026 on the back of an exponential growth in tourism and hospitality infrastructure as the Emirates keeps on track to witness a record surge in visitor traffic over the next decade.
The world's 10 safest countries1- Finland
5- Hong Kong
The UAE Minister of Economy Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri estimates that the tourism sector would contribute 5.4 per cent annually over the next 10 years to reach Dh236.8 billion by year 2026.
"The UAE has rich cultural heritage, natural diversity and the developed infrastructure that make it a strong competitor on the world tourism map," he said while stressing that the nation would need to employ potential human capital in order to develop the role of tourism in the economy, which is on track to emerge as the best-performing economy in the region in 2017-18.
In 2016, Dubai saw 14.9 million overnight visitors, recording a five per cent increase on 2015.
According to a statement by Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Dubai is on track to achieve the goal of 20 million visitors by 2020, and increase its sector-driven economic contribution to the emirate's GDP.
"2016 was another milestone marker for Dubai's travel sector, as we rallied strong, and ramped up the momentum to significantly outpace the four-year global industry average by double. With our international overnight traffic reaching 14.9 million, Dubai has cemented its ranking as the fourth most visited city in the world, critically delivering the highest value to the domestic economy with our number one ranking in terms of spend per tourist compared to any other competitor destination," said Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai Tourism.
According to Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index, Dubai, ranked the number one travel destination in the Middle East, also retains its position as the fourth most popular destination in the world for holiday-makers, while Abu Dhabi with a growth rate of 19.81 per cent is the fastest-growing city in the Middle East and the third fastest growing city worldwide.
Cheryl Martin, Head of Industries, Member of the Managing Board WEF, said in the past decades travel & tourism and its enabling ecosystem have proven to be significant drivers of economic growth, contributing over 10 per cent to global GDP and accounting for one in 10 jobs on the planet.
"The industry continues to be a force for good, providing unique opportunities for developing and emerging nations to move up the value chain," said Martin.
Despite significant headwinds, the Middle East has improved its T&T competitiveness. International arrivals continue to grow, reaching 72 million in 2015 compared to 68 million in 2013 and 62 million in 2011, when the region experienced its biggest drop in tourist arrivals.
Better ICT infrastructure, lower prices, partial improvements in international openness and some progress in nurturing cultural heritage have created better conditions to develop the T&T sector overall. Still, natural and cultural resources remain mostly underexploited and international openness is still limited.
With a forecasted 1.8 billion international tourists by 2030, the global T&T industry has the potential to play a key role in creating high-quality employment opportunities, act as a vehicle to protect and restore our planet's biodiversity and help build bridges between people and cultures, the WEF report said.
Research shows that for every 30 new tourists to a destination one new job is created; and already today, the travel and tourism industry has almost twice as many women employers as other sectors, WEF said.