Brid Beeler to Yemen Times:”Yemen will always be a special place in my heart” [Archives:2007/1064/Reportage]

July 2 2007
Trekking in Cahill in Jebel Al Haraz.
Trekking in Cahill in Jebel Al Haraz.
Nadia Al-Sakkaf
She is known in the Yemeni community as the beautiful lady with long blond hair wearing Yemeni traditional ornaments. She had come to Yemen 16 years ago and decided to make this country a second home for her. After many years of working in the tourism sector as Group Marketing Manager for Universal Group, Brid Beeler left her mark in Yemen and moved on to Oman to work as a Managing Director for Abercrombie & Kent Oman based in Muscat.

How do you feel about leaving Yemen?

One of the happiest parts of saying goodbye is that I know I will be back.

What attracted you to Yemen?

When I first came to Yemen in 1991, 16 years ago, I fell in love with this beautiful country and I said that someday I would live here. Now I have. It's been challenging, interesting, and sometimes very aggravating, but I've never doubted my decision to come for a single minute. Not once.

So, why are you leaving?

Well, the time came to meet a new challenge in my career. I had worked for Abercrombie & Kent in the past, so it was a logical move when I accepted the position as Managing Director with Abercrombie & Kent for Oman, who are one of the world's largest and best-known luxury travel companies in the world, operating in 80 countries on all 7 continents. Now stationed in Muscat, overseeing Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, I am responsible for developing A&K's signature tours, along with building the A&K Explorer lodges/hotels and tented camps.

Will you ever come back?

The Middle East is a very small place, obviously not geographically, but it's like one big family. I have found that in the 18 years I have been in the region, you make friendships and connections that last a lifetime and that is the essence and success of doing business in this part of the world. I certainly will be back in Sana'a to see the many friends I have aside from business.

What about your connection with Universal?

Universal and I have had a long relationship going back some 10 years. It all began with Mahmood Al Shaibani who is the General Manager for Universal Touring Company. My time in Yemen as Group Marketing Manager for Universal Group was a very special and rewarding time in my life, and I have many happy memories of my time shared with friends and colleagues.

Any special memories of your time here?

Oh yes, like the terrible night when Khatela, my saluki dog, ran out the front door of my home in Al Bounia. Everyone in the neighborhood, including the military and police, some 50 people in all, came to my assistance. Hours later she was finally apprehended. I'll never forget how everyone in the community pitched in to help, that is truly unique. Children elsewhere in the world go missing, and nobody cares, but here in Sana'a, in my community, my neighbors cared about me and my lost saluki.

Any others?

Oh sure, too many to mention them all, but another very special time in my life was when I rented a home in the mountains from a Sheikh in Jebel Al Haraz. It was my weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of life in Sana'a. That village and home where I spent many a happy weekend with friends and my saluki dogs was Shangri La. It was truly heaven on earth. When I think of Yemen today, that is where my minds eye is drawn to. It is a place I truly miss.

Why Oman?

My first visit to Oman was in 1990, and I have traveled all over the country during many subsequent visits. Like Yemen, Oman is a spectacularly beautiful country and has it's own long and fascinating history, and I am looking forward to being part of the development of its tourism sector.

They have an excellent cadre of guides, hotels and infrastructure already in place. It's ripe for development, but with an eye to the preservation of its treasures and culture, paying attention to its wildlife and other valuable resources.

That sounds very similar to Yemen?

Yes, but I think this is where Yemen can improve. While well thinking, the government continually fails to seriously recognize the importance of tourism to the future of the country. Lack of funds is always cited, but there are funds available, just not necessarily allocated to the appropriate Ministries. Yemen has so much to offer, but without development of the infrastructure, it will continue to lag behind other countries in the region. Companies like Universal Group do what they can, and privately fund important projects where they can, but Yemen's status in the international tourist market deserves to be higher than it is.

Other than maybe Oman, who else in the region is doing well in this sector?

Look at Egypt and Jordan, both are examples of where terrorism incidents took place, yet within a year, tourism had rebounded because the government actively put money into marketing on an international level, and that is the problem Yemen is facing, the lack of exposure.

So, you are sure you are not going to forget us?

No way, Yemen will always be a special place in my heart.