Celebrating its 20th anniversary:Universal does well despite odds [Archives:2003/631/Community]

April 14 2003
Panel view of Universals administration during the anniversary gathering
Panel view of Universals administration during the anniversary gathering
Yasser Mohammed Al-Mayyasi
The 20th anniversary of the Universal Group of Companies for Travel and Trade-Limited was celebrated last Saturday in a special gathering of staffers and higher administration represented by Chairman Mr. Alwan Al-Shaibani and Vice Chairman and GM Mr. Omar Mohamed Omar in Shahran Hotel in Sana'a.
The ceremony, which included the distribution of certificates to distinguished staff members, was marked in a time the tourism industry is facing several challenges of various types and dimensions. Yet unlike many other similar companies in Yemen, Universal was able to grow and flourish during its twenty years overcoming all challenges and odds and becoming the pioneer and most successful tourism establishment in Yemen.

Universal for Travel and Trade Limited was founded in 12 April 1983 when the first office was launched in Sana'a to be the corner stone for a number of rapidly-growing and promising companies.
The beginning was not easy at all. The company faced financial difficulties and was about to close before completing its second year. However, the insistence to continue, the optimistic insight of the future, and the efforts exerted by the staff and administration, plus people's cooperation revived the company and enabled it to get up on its feet again to become the fastest growing company in Yemen's tourism industry.
Through the past 20 years, Universal received agency rights of many internationally renowned airlines including Jordanian Loyal Airlines, British Airlines and American Airlines.
The company expanded in time and inaugurated new branches of activities resulting in a group of companies that are well-connected and coordinated and that offer a variety of different services.
The last five years of the 1980s witnessed a significant increase in ticket sales and a boom in the tourism sector. The first five years of the 1980s were the most successful, resulting in substantial revenues for the company. Thus, seeing the promise of a united Yemen, Universal started after unification in 1990 establishing a number of hotels in Sana'a, Hadromout and Mahweet and then expanded its activities further and deeper into the tourism sector.
Companies established by Universal include Yemen Automobile and Touring Club, DHL-Yemen, Universal-Rent a Car (Hertz), and Universal for Hotels.
During the 1990s, new branches were opened in Aden, Ibb, al-Mukalla and Sayoun.

How Universal prevailed
Mr. Alwan al-Shaibani, Chairman of Board of Directors of the company described many of the challenges and difficulties faced by the company since the 1994 civil war. According to Mr. Alwan, the war had devastating effects on the traveling and tourism industry. The Central Bank of Yemen then added insult to injury by raising loan interests to 30%, damaging the company's hotel investments even further.
“Successive kidnappings of tourists as well as the USS Cole incident along with the blast of the French Tanker Limburg have also participated in damaging the tourism industry in Yemen.” Mr. Alwan said.
However, the company's administration was able to implement strict and effective administrative steps to alleviate the damages by reestablishing the bylaws of Universal giving it financial and administrative independence. This applied to new companies such as Yemen Automobile and Touring Club, etc.
The company also had to suspend its services to retired employees with high salaries and minimized marketing spending as well as travel expenses. Other measures included the improvement of revenues by expanding the activity of the group's companies, which were not affected by the tourism conditions. The administration decided to create new revenues by establishing new services including an agency for Western Union, and by providing pilgrimage and Omra services to the public.
The company also reached an agreement with banks to reschedule its debts.
In short, Universal has proven that it passed the test of time and is now back on track again looking forward to a brighter tourism future for Yemen's tourism industry. It had faced a lot of difficulties in the past, but was able to successfully alleviate the negative aspects associated with them because of its administration's keen vision and its cadre's hard work and dedication.
As Yemen Times, we would also like to present Universal -administration and staff- our sincere congratulations on its 20th anniversary.