In Summary

  • Tourists prefer to spend time in happier countries
  • Study has implications for tourism marketing
  • Mexico, Colombia and New Zealand among the ‘happiest’ nations

In the middle of winter, just as we’re all thinking about a holiday, Swinburne researchers have revealed a nation’s perceived happiness can be an asset that attracts tourists.

Finance lecturer Dr Reza Tajaddini and Economics lecturers Dr Hassan F Gholipour and Dr Jeremy Nguyen, say their research was the first to propose that tourists may travel to sites of greater ‘happiness’ and to investigate the relationship between happiness and inbound tourism.

The researchers say their work has implications for tourism marketing and shows the benefit of emphasising the happiness characteristics of destinations, alongside traditional cultural and heritage attractions.

“In recent years, many countries have launched tourism campaigns focusing on happiness in their countries,” Dr Tajaddini says. “Sometimes a holiday isn't just getting to see more sunshine; it's about getting to see more sunny smiles.”

Fiji tourism authorities employed a global campaign ‘Fiji-where happiness finds you’; and Bhutan, Thailand and Costa Rica have also used happiness campaigns to promote their tourism industries.

To define happiness, the research team used a large, multi-country database from the World Values Survey (WVS), a global research project that has explored international values and beliefs for more than three decades.

The researchers measured tourism revenue to 63 countries, taking into account heritage sites and natural attractions, finding that perceived political stability and an absence of violence influenced traveller’s decisions.

They also studied tourism arrivals and matched this data with happiness data, to show that a nation’s happiness may be an asset capable of attracting international visitors, in addition to its traditional tourism assets.

Happiness is an intangible tourism asset

Dr Gholipour says: “Happier countries may be able to attain economic benefits by recognising population happiness as an intangible asset that can be managed and marketed, sharing local people’s happiness with international visitors.”

Dr Nguyen says the results suggest that international tourists prefer to travel to, and spend more time in, happier countries.

“If national happiness is viewed as an intangible asset that affects tourism positively, then recent interests in national happiness and wellbeing by political leaders and economists have clear implications for the management of this asset for which tourism industries are a stakeholder,” Dr Nguyen says.

"For most tourists, it's not just the sights and the weather; it's also the mood of the people around you,” he says.

The happiest nations on the planet, according to the research, are: Mexico, Colombia, Qatar, Ecuador, Uzbekistan, New Zealand, and Sweden. Get ready to book your flights.

This research has been published in the Annals of Tourism Research.