Developing Tourism in Yemen [Archives:1998/11/Focus]

March 16 1998

Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi, Taiz
Tourism ostentatiously represents an inexhaustible river that feeds any country with hard currency. It is rightly termed “the engine of economic development.” This is because it is a principal foreign currency earner which supports the national economy. In fact, in some countries, especially the third world, tourism comprises the whole and sole source of hard currency.
In spite of the fact that Yemen is still new in field of tourism industry, it seems that there is a formidable and promising future for the growth of tourism in Yemen.
Tourists Numbers Increase
A record 60 thousand tourists visited Yemen in 1995 and 75,000 in 1997. The tourism revenues reached US$ 45 million in 1996. The number of workers in tourist establishments is now more than 5900. These figures indicate that the momentum is accelerating and hopefully it has immense prospects in the coming phase.
However, the number of tourists visiting Yemen is relatively modest in comparison with those visiting other countries which lack Yemen’s attractions and scope for tourism.
Promotional Schemes
But to give it a positive thrust, there must be a comprehensive plan for promoting tourist drive in the country like a strategy for marketing and advertising, and tourism scheme for Yemeni coasts. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism must play a more aggressive role in promoting tourism. It should intensively provide all the facilities for all potential domestic as well as foreign investors in this field.
In this respect it should be pointed out that Yemen has various natural, cultural and coastal resources that can, if exploited well, be developed into centers of tourist interest. The Yemeni coast extends over 2000 kilometers along the shores. It has also more than 112 islands, both in the Red and Arab seas.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism should also coordinate and cooperate with other ministries so as to promote this industry and show its rosy picture. There must be a cooperation with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning in order to build more hotels and increase access points such as airports. It should encourage the building of more four-star and five-star hotels. Roads to different archaeological sites and high mountains, which can be used in gliding, should be improved. The rural places, in addition, should be taken into consideration because of their striking beauty.
Role of the Media
Another point that should be raised here is the significant role of our mass media in activating and marketing tourism in Yemen. Their role is considerably integral to that of the Ministry of Tourism. They can help a lot in raising public awareness of the importance of the tourism industry in increasing the national income. This is because tourism is a product requiring social interaction and that social awareness should be promoted as part of the effort to increase tourism. Our information media can also help in conveying the messages of the Ministry of Tourism which must reach all people.
They will also help in educating people in the significance of protecting the environment from any sort of destruction because if the environment is destroyed, then tourism will collapse. With regard to the archaeological sites, ancient monuments must be preserved and well looked after. The government should make strict measures against smugglers of our archaeological masterpieces to other countries.
Traditional & Ancient Handicrafts
We can not also fail to mention that Yemen is rich with its cultural and historical heritage. It has its own unique traditions, history, culture, handicrafts which can attract many tourists from different countries in the world. It has more than 28 handicrafts and the number of people working in them is estimated at 30-40 thousand. The tourists spend nearly YR 2 million on buying such products. Therefore, this makes it very necessary and important to preserve these handicrafts from extinction. The people working in them should also be supported and encouraged.
Stop Kidnappings!
But the most dangerous problem facing the future of tourism industry in our country is that of kidnapping tourists. It is actually a nagging problem which has began to threaten not only the future of tourism, but also our relation with some friendly countries. Therefore, the government must take stiff measures against kidnappers and show them no leniency.
Only in this way can we make tourism an important industry after oil. I hope that its future will be more auspicious.