“Future is for Tourism in Yemen” [Archives:1998/40/Business & Economy]

October 5 1998

Mr. Omar Mohammed Omar, the Vice Chairman & Group Managing Director of the Universal Group of Companies, started working as the General Manager of Universal Travel & Tourism which he helped to establish, along with Mr. Alwan Al-Shaibani, in 1983 with only three employees. Now the company has many branches spanning major Yemeni cities.
Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi, Assistant Managing Editor of Yemen Times, met Mr. Omar and filed the following interview. Excerpts.
Q: Could please give us some idea about the new projects of the Universal?
A: As you know the Universal is a group of 8 companies which are Universal Travel & Tourism, Universal Travel & Trading Ltd., Universal Touring Company, Universal Hotels Co. Ltd., Universal Rent a Car, Yemen Club for Touring & Automobile, Yemen Exchange Bureau and Yemen Holidays & Tours. Actually, we have several projects related to travel and tourism; we have Shahran Hotel in Sanaa which will be opened in mid November and Shamsan Hotel in Taiz which is scheduled to be opened in the early 1999. We will also have the Meridien Sanaa project due to open late 1999.
Q: What are the obstacles faced by your group of companies?
A: We as well as others in business have suffered greatly due to kidnapping incidents that took place in some parts of the country in the past few months. As I mentioned earlier, our main field of business is travel and tourism so kidnapping is detrimental to us; the occupancy of our, particularly in Marib, has been zeroed. However, with the newly issued law against kidnappers, the situation has clearly improved and there were no reported incidents since.
Q: Do you have any plan to expand the branches of the Universal Group?
A: Yes, we do have a plan to have more offices in major hotels and airports around Yemen but again that depends on the drive of tourism. We will also open a new branch in Attaq, Shabwa. We also plan to add new offices in locations and hotels in the Hadhramaut and Aden areas.
Q: Tourism is in the horns of a dilemma nowadays?
A: Yes, it is true that tourism is passing a very critical time but our group has not ceased to expand since its establishment. We have believed and still do, despite many skeptics, that we should expand our activities, the civil war and what followed it did not convince us otherwise. We are going ahead because the future is for tourism in this country and we believe it should provide real good income for all sectors of society. Currently, the most important thing for tourism is the stability of the security situation. Next, attention should be given to the infrastructure of the country in terms of roads and communication. If these factors are looked after well, I am sure the number of tourists will be doubled in no time. Sure, kidnapping is a major factor behind the stagnation of tourism, but , of course, there are many other reasons like adequate hotels, restaurants, proper training and other tourist facilities which we are lacking in.
Q: How could you describe the relation between the company and its working staff?
A: Those who are related to travel and tourism are over 200 and 95% of them are Yemenis and they have many privileges, the most important of which is a good salary. We have 8 companies and when we achieve any success we all share its benefits from the office boy to the general manager; everybody receives his or her share.
Q: What is the focus of your activities and why?
A: As I said earlier our focus is on travel and tourism. Of course we have different commercial concentrations but the most important one is tourism. We have a lot of things to do with travel, tourism and hotels. And with regard to our relations with other companies, it can be described as excellent; we also very professional yet friendly relationship with various government agencies.
Q: Has Universal joined the world of computer technology and Internet?
A: Actually, we have an independent department for computer technology that was established in early 1997. This department has focused on automating three main areas, namely finance, sales and communication. All our branches are connected through electronic mail. Our internet site
http://www.universalyemen.com attracts many visitors worldwide. Our in-house internet serves as an important means of communication between our various branches. We are now finalizing an upgrade for our phone system, which will provide better customer service and call routing plus cutting on costs. Our airlines sales system takes care of our airlines ticketing sales, our tourism sales system has been running most of the operations in Universal Touring Company for the last 3 years now.
We plan to provide these services to others starting from e-mail all the way to group internet and custom-made software.