“World Most”, “World Best”, “World Worst”: Is It Enough?

The multiplication of classifications about the “World Most, Best, Worst” in tourism is turning into an annoying way to celebrate, confirm or destroy tourism destinations andtourism-related places. And finally are these classifications done by international institutions relevant and totally unbiased? Do they really contribute to raise interest and bring more awareness of travellers to a specific location? How influential is advertising spent with the company organising those ranking?

In the last couple of weeks, three such nominations were officially announced: “World’s Most Popular Landmark” by TripAdvisor; “World’s Most Colourful Places” by CNN Travel; “World Best Airport” by airhelp.com.

“World’s Most Popular Landmark” by TripAdvisor named Angkor Wat the top most popular landmark in the world. Fair enough for Cambodia, which can add the award to an already impressive list of distinctions received in the past. However, ow was the choice done?

TripAdvisor explains that its award winners were determined using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for landmarks worldwide, gathered over a 12-month period. Awards were attributed to 706 landmarks in 82 countries.

“These iconic sights are cultural and historical touchstones for visitors across the globe,” said in an official release Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. This is a subjective way although the travel website explains -the largest in the world- takes into consideration the reviews and comments of its web community. if we only look at numbers, then the result is more questionable.

“Most Popular Landmark” could be measured by the total number of visitors. With some 2.3 million of visitors per year, Angkor Wat is effectively a top sight for visiting in Southeast Asia. But Borobudur Temple in Central Java receives for example over 3.7 million visitors per year and could be close to four million in 2017. And what about the Eiffel Tower which received in 2016 close to 7 million visitors (of which six million are foreigners)?

Then, there is this strange new award from CNN to acknowledge the most colourful places in the world, places that the US TV network justifies with the following explanation: “In a world where phones offer a filter, sticker or effect for every photo, images can become more dramatic than the real thing. But there are still places that even Photoshop can’t improve on, where nature’s palette concocts colors that seem unreal, or where designers have turned ordinary neighborhoods into wonderlands”. 

Surprisingly then, within ASEAN, CNN “World Most Colourful Place” is…the i-City in Selangor! Never heard of it? CNN describes it as “a peculiar blend of a hi-tech development center and an amusement park that includes an ice palace called the Snowalk, where the indoors is kept at freezing temperatures to preserve chambers of ice lit with colored lights. In the evenings, outdoors in the tropical heat, millions of twinkle lights illuminate the trees in every artificial color imaginable. It is a Christmas yard display amped up to the nth degree.” What about Lake Kelimutu with its changing colours in Indonesia, the Phi Taa Khon Festival in Loei, Thailand or the MassKara Festival in Bacolod, Philippines? Or what about the colourful painted walls of Melaka along its river or the range of Peranakan houses in Singapore Katong District?

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

Then comes airhelp.com classification about the world’s best airport. And to much chagrin of Thai authorities, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport is among the top worst, being ranked 68 over 76. According to the company’s website, Airhelp Score compares each airport using three different criteria to give a “full” picture of how they perform. The company aggregates the quality of service based on Skytrax own information, on-time performance from Flightstats, and the passenger experience of a given airport, thanks to analysis conducted on Twitter over the comments.

Bangkok then fared badly and is worst than Los Angeles, Lisbon or Buenos Aires. Those airports offer good but anything exceptional in terms of facilities. Although Bangkok is far of being an exceptional airport in the region -especially when compared to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur-, the airport is not that bad… Travellers just have to think of Manila, Chiang Mai or Yoyakarta to understand what is a bad airport in ASEAN.

AOT authorities -which manage Suvarnabhumi- were quicked to point out that the Airport Council International, the largest association of airports in the world and the authority for all airports- ranked Suvarnabhumi the 10th best for airports with over 40 million passengers a year. From overrating to underrating, what should be chosen? And finally, would it really changed the perception of passengers queuing at immigration or security lanes at Suvarnabhumi airport?

Finally, bad and/or good words should only come from travellers themselves, the only legitimate judges…