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FDi's inaugural Tourism Editor's Choice Awards for tourism single out the countries that have devised specific and successful strategies to attract investment. Belize, Croatia and Jamaica are just three of the countries punching above their weight, reports Cathy Mullan.


Located in Central America and bordered to the north by Mexico and in the south by Guatemala, Belize’s eastern coast is on the Caribbean Sea and is popular with tourists. The country has been awarded an Investment Award for Hotels owing to several hotel developments, including Hilton’s Mahogany Bay hotel, which cost between $50m and $65m, creating about 430 jobs.

Belize has also won the Enhanced Airlift award, in recognition of the targeted and increased efforts to attract new airlifts, as well as a Sustainability Strategy award. The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry lobbies for a sustainable tourism framework, which aims to connect investors with opportunities in the national economy.


Twelve-and-a-half million people visited Croatia in 2015, attracted by its Adriatic Sea coastline. The country has been making progress on infrastructure to support increasing tourist numbers (international visitors increased at an average annual rate of more than 6% in the five years to 2015).

The reconstruction and extension of its airports, which includes a new €300m terminal building at the  Franjo Tuđman International airport in Zagreb, the reconstruction of airports in Split and Dubrovnik, as well as plans to construct the 2.5-kilometres-long Pelješac Bridge connecting the mainland to the Pelješac peninsula, helped Croatia win the editor’s choice award for Infrastructure Upgrades.

According to Croatia’s National Agency for Investments and Competitiveness, it was forecast that the country would welcome 90 million overnight stays by the end of 2017, and the need for hotel beds is increasing. Croatia also won the award for Accommodation Upgrades. It saw the opening of 40 new or refurbished hotels in 2016, a figure set to rise to 50 in 2017.

The number of five-star hotels on offer in the country has increased by 44% in the six years to 2016, while the number of four-star hotels went up by 71%. During the same period, the number of two-star establishments decreased by 29%, thus improving the quality of accommodation on offer.

The country was also commended for its efforts to attract investors in the tourism sector, winning an Incentives award. Croatia’s Act on Investment Promotion offers investors a range of incentives for establishing hospitality and tourism accommodation facilities rated at four- and five-star level. In addition, investors can enjoy incentives for education and training, grants for capital costs of projects and 0% corporate income tax for up to 10 years.

Croatia boasts 61 marinas with more than 20,000 berths available on the country’s famous islands – a distinguishing feature that earned it the Cruise Industry Investment award.

Several investors have established a presence in the country’s tourism sector, including Hyatt Hotels’ €100m Hyatt Regency Zadar Maraska – a development that includes a hotel and 115 luxury residences – and the Kupari complex development, which will be located on 14 hectares of land near Dubrovnik and boast capacity of 1500 beds. These, among other developments, contributed to the country’s Hotel Investment award.

Croatia is becoming increasingly important as a filming location for both TV shows and films, including HBO’s Game of Thrones series and more recently Robin Hood. Some 250,000 tourists are believed to have visited as a direct result of the Game of Thrones franchise, helping the country win the Film Industry specialism award.


According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) annual report, Gambia saw annual increases in its tourism arrivals of more than 6% in the five years to 2015. Infrastructure, accommodation, facilities and events have all increased to accommodate the increased arrivals, earning the country recognition with a One to Watch award.

Gambia is also the recipient of the Inter-agency Collaboration award, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Gambian Tourist Board and the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency, whereby agencies will work together to attract investment and on cost-cutting initiatives. They also work together when visiting international conferences and exhibitions, with joint marketing collateral and information for investors.


Investment in hotel space is essential in a country that experienced average annual growth in international tourist arrivals of more than 20% between 2011 and 2015, and Georgia has been recognised with an Investment Award for Hotels. Major developments include the €70m Biltmore Hotel, a seven-star hotel in Tbilisi, and the €25m CastelloMare five-star hotel on the Black Sea coast.

The main promotional subsector in the tourism sector for 2017 is the spa and wellness subsector, and the government is currently developing Tskaltubo Spa and Wellness Resort. This has earned the country a specialism award for Spa and Wellness as Invest in Georgia aims to attract at least three investments in the area by 2018.

Investors in the hotel industry can apply for the Hotel Development Incentive from 2018, allowing them to access state-backed finance for the development of hotels. The country has thus been given a Financing Support award in recognition of the effort to assist investors in the tourism sector.

Georgia has seen the composition of its tourist arrivals (which numbered nearly 6 million in 2015) develop and expand. Middle Eastern markets have increased, as well as more visitors from India and China. This contributed to the country’s Diversity of Visitors award.

In 2015, the country introduced an e-visa portal, which allows visitors to apply for a visitor’s visa online. However, nationals from 97 countries do not require a visa to enter the country, which is in receipt of the Ease of Entry award.


Home to nearly 24,000 companies in the tourism sector, Greece has been awarded for its Infrastructure Upgrades. According to PwC’s most recent Infrastructure Report, €2bn has been invested in 16 infrastructure projects in the country between 2014 and February 2017. More than €21bn is set to be invested by 2022 in a further 69 infrastructure projects, including rail and port investments.

Regional airports are also scheduled to be upgraded or constructed to support the expected increase in tourist numbers, while €309m has been committed to Thessaloniki Port Authority as part of a 25-year upgrading plan.

A slew of new hotel developments has been established, including the €120m Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort in Chalkidiki and a €191m tourist complex in Karysto, contributing towards the country’s Accommodation Upgrades award.

According to the WTTC annual report, the total contribution of the tourism sector in Greece to national GDP was €32.8bn (or 18.6%) in 2016, which is forecast to rise to nearly €55bn in 2027. According to the same report, employment in the tourism sector accounted for 11.5% of total employment, helping Greece win the award for Economic Contribution of Tourism.

Supported by Enterprise Greece, a fast-track licensing procedure has been introduced. This streamlines the investment process by shortening deadlines and accelerating the process for companies, and earned the country an award for the Reduction of Red Tape.


The Caribbean country of Jamaica has been awarded for its Accommodation Upgrades. Rooms for overnight visitors have doubled in the decade to 2016, when 30,000 rooms were available, and an extra 6000 hotel rooms have been planned by the end of 2018.

The country is ranked 17th globally for medical tourism, and opportunities are beginning to be widely recognised. Jamaica’s newest medical facility has been established by the Spain-based Hospiten Group, and the government is finalising its medical tourism policy, which will include incentives for the sector and the implementation of national standards. fDi Magazine has recognised the progress and potential, awarding Jamaica with a Medical Tourism specialism award.

In addition, the country has been given a Community Tourism specialism award for developments on the island. Airbnb, in particular, has brought tourists to areas not traditionally associated with tourism, and five community tourism enterprises have been licensed by the Jamaica Tourism Board to date.

Jamaica was also awarded the Shovel Ready award in recognition of its ‘Shovel Ready’ investment programme, which aims to offer investors pre-packaged opportunities allowing the fast-tracked development of hotels and facilities for the tourism sector. The initiative will include preliminary approvals and capacity studies.

Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia, a Caribbean country that is part of the Lesser Antilles group of islands, has been awarded for its Incentives. Its Tourism Incentives Act offers investors duty-free imports on building materials and equipment for tourism facilities. The Tourism Stimulus and Investment Act offers investors exemption from corporate income tax for up to 25 years, and the Special Development Areas Act offers a range of incentives, including stamp duty exemptions and industrial building allowances.

There have been several hotel developments in the country in recent years, including major investments from Ritz Carlton, Sandals Resorts and Hilton, earning Saint Lucia a Hotel Investment award.

Valle del Cauca, Colombia

Boasting the third largest conference and event centre in Colombia, Valle del Cauca has won the specialism award for the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events sector. The Valle del Pacífico convention centre has capacity for 14,000 people and was host to the XII Pacific Alliance Summit in 2017, attended by four presidents from four countries.

The region on the west coast of Colombia has also been recognised with a Nature Tourism specialism award. Colombia is home to nearly 2000 species of birds, and Valle del Cauca houses more than half of these. Efforts have been undertaken to improve infrastructure in areas such as the western Andes bird-watching route, the provision of equipment, eco trails and sighting towers.

Valle del Cauca has been named One to Watch in this year’s awards, as the number of foreign tourists increased by more than 50% between 2013 and 2016, and in particular, holiday tourism grew by nearly 40% between 2014 and 2015.

Yerevan, Armenia

The capital of Armenia, Yerevan has been recognised with a specialism award for Heritage Tourism. Many opportunities exist in the city for investors in the areas of heritage tourism and leisure facilities. One such opportunity is the restoration of Erebuni, a historical archaeological museum reserve.

The city has also been commended for its International Outreach, in its efforts to put itself on the map for foreign investors. Yerevan co-operates with more than 50 cities globally, and is a member of eight international organisations. Initiatives are in place to expand international ties with sister and partner city agreements.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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