IRELAND'S international 'brand' gained significantly last year based on the admiration in other countries for how we have coped with our economic problems, says the company which compiles an international survey of most favoured countries, which sees Ireland finishing 18th most popular globally.
The improved performance sees Ireland move up a place from five years ago, in a year when two-thirds of developed countries in the top 20 lost popularity at the expense of developing countries, says the annual study by US based global research consultancy Anholt-GFK Roper (AGFKR), which employs over 11,000 research experts around the world.
"A country's global brand is most important when it comes to tourism but is also a significant component when it comes to attracting new business," said Rita Quigley, associate director with AGFKR's Ireland office.
"It looks like other countries have increased their admiration for Ireland based on how we have handled our difficulties," she added. "The Irish people continue to be the country's greatest asset, ranking in the top 10 countries in almost half of all those countries studied when it comes to being "warm and friendly," she said.
The UK, France and Germany all rated Ireland more favourably in 2012 than in previous years. "Once less favourable countries have also marked an increase in Ireland's reputation in 2012 including Brazil and Japan," said Ms Quigley.
GFK does not reveal individual national marking scores in its six categories (it sells this research to national governments) but did reveal that Ireland scored highest for its people (15th place) and lowest (24th) in exports.
Increased favour for Irish goods was most prominent among older people in English speaking countries where Ireland has an established diaspora such as the UK, the USA, Britain and Australia.
However, this difference did not exist among those in their 20s and 30s in these countries. The identity of Irish exports as being "Irish" did not register at all outside of these countries.
Meanwhile, Dublin's reputation as a city did not tally with Ireland's improved reputation, ranking only 30th out o the 50 cities ranked.
Surprisingly Ms Quigley estimated that the horsemeat scandal would probably not affect Ireland's international standing going forward and might actually enhance it further.
"Ireland is being seen as the country which highlighted this scandal. In the eyes of the world this issue is now considered to be the 'European meat problem'. Had it remained focused on Ireland, however, it certainly would have affected the standing of our exports."
The top five most admired countries around the world in 2012 were the USA, Germany, the UK, France and Canada.
The scores were estimated equally in the categories of exports, governance, culture, people, tourism and immigration/investment.
"With a few exceptions, developed nations, ranking among the top 20, have registered some of the biggest score losers. Japan and Spain, mired in their respective economic malaises, have experienced the greatest score decline," said Simon Anhold, NBI founder and an independent advisor to over 50 heads of state around the world.
The biggest gainers were the UAE, Turkey and Denmark while the biggest losers were Russia, Japan and Spain.
The most unpopular countries overall were Qatar, Columbia, Kenya, Nigeria and Iran. And while they held their top places, GFK said that the USA, Germany, and the UK all lost a significant amount of points.
The 20,000 adults surveyed from around the world listed the factors they most admired in another country as being democratic, open and fair treatment of citizens; good quality of life and work/life balance; respect for nature and clean environment; safe and orderly society; and people being warm and friendly.