Ecotourism in Yemen: Process & Concept [Archives:1998/24/Business & Economy]

June 15 1998

‘Yemen is Rich with a Unique Diversity of Ecotourism Elements that Must be Conserved’ is the theme of a special workshop held on 10 and 11 June in Sanaa. The results of several studies on the possibility of establishing a viable ecotourism in Yemen were extensively discussed by the participants.
The workshop was attended by the chairman of the General Tourism Authority, Mr. Abdulrahman Mahyoob and a large number of travel agents and tour operators. “There is a marked increase in the number of tourists coming to Yemen for whom we try to provide the best accommodation and means of transport,” says Mr. Mahyoob.
Several tour operators have expressed deep interest in taking part in tourism projects. “The General Tourism Authority is more than ready to provide all possible assistance to investors in the tourism sector,” announced Mr. Mahyoob.
Ms. Najat Al-Shami, the director of the 5th Ecotourism Project has emphasized that Yemen has all the necessary tourist attractions to be able to compete on an international level. “If we plan and implement our plans correctly, the tourism industry in Yemen can be improved immensely,” explained Ms. Al-Shami.
The National Action Plan for the Environment has several priorities including the establishment of a special directorate for ecotourism within the General Tourism Authority. “Tourism and the environment are very closely linked and mutually interactive,” Ms. Al-Shami pointed out, adding, “I call on all relevant organs to cooperate on raising public awareness of the importance of such issues as sanitation.”
She also asked the private sector to be more reactive with the ecotourism program. “I think that every quaint little village in Yemen should be declared a conserved area.” Special questionnaires were distributed to private sector tour operators to ascertain their readiness to take part in the ecotourism program. “The results of the survey should be out by mid-July,” announced Ms. Al-Shami.
Mr. Hector Ceballos-Lascurain, the Director General of the Program of International Consultancy on Ecotourism (PICE) and special adviser on ecotourism to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), presented his preliminary findings on the possibilities of ecotourism in Yemen. His first mission (15 April – 2 May) covered the governorates of Sanaa, Aden Hodeida, Taiz and Hadhramaut; while, the second mission (3 June – 20 June) took him to Mareb, Mahweet, Hajja and Saada.
He told Yemen Times: “Yemen has some very beautiful and attractive cultural, architectural and human elements. The country has the most diverse environment in the Arabian Peninsula. However, there are a few negative aspects.” He specified the following remarks:
1- Pollution and litter are almost everywhere. Discarded plastic bags are the worst enemy of the environment, especially in Third World countries. More reliance should be made on bio-degradable material.
2- The carrying and use of firearms have very adverse effects on tourism. Also, the presence of army troops at checkpoints and road blocks simply frighten the tourists.
3- Some historical and archeological sites on mountain tops are not employed as tourist attractions because they are used as army positions.
4- There is a lack of environmental awareness among the general public. School children should be taught to positively deal with the environment. Tourism in Yemen will never progress if not enough care is given to the environment. The philosophy of ecotourism must prevail in this country.
5- Staff working in the tourism sector are not very knowledgeable in foreign languages. There must be intensive language-learning programs to teach spoken and written foreign languages.
6- Maps and tourist information leaflets and booklets in foreign languages must be made readily available for visitors.
7- There must be sufficient laws and legislations to regulate investments in the tourism sector.
8- There is a marked lack of conserved areas and administrative plans.
Mr. Hector Ceballos-Lascurain made the following recommendations:
1- A comprehensive survey must be conducted on all likely tourist attractions.
2- The Ministry of Culture and Tourism should keep an extensive record of all of Yemen’s heritage. “We must know what we have.”
3- The General Tourism Authority must keep coordinating its efforts with the Environment Protection Council.
4- Before starting to promote ecotourism in this country, specific areas must be earmarked for conservation.
5- Media campaigns must be conducted to raise public awareness of essential environmental issues.
“Some of the areas that should be conserved,” indicated Mr. Lascurain, “include the Island of Socotra, the Dhora Mountain in Hodeida, Bir Ali in Aden, Rass Shamra in Hadhramaut, the Island of Kamaran, Kadafar in Saada, and Shahara.”