GCC tourists invited to Yemen [Archives:2004/762/Local News]

August 9 2004

The Ministry of Interior announced last week that it made it easier for travelers for members of the Gulf Cooperation Council to come and visit Yemen.
Tourists from the GCC are now allowed to enter the country without a visa or any other permit. They are also exempted from paying a $60 fee at the airport, and the Ministry of Interior was quoted as saying GCC nationals can enter Yemen “just like Yemeni citizens without any pass.”
The GCC countries include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Last month, the Yemeni government made a decision to encourage tourists to visit Yemen by allowing travelers from 30 countries to receive a visa at the airport and other points of entry. Previously, the tourists had to get a visa from a Yemeni embassy abroad and join a tour group or come for business.
“This latest decision by the government is a very good step to help attract more tourists and create growth in the tourism sector,” said Taha Al-Mahbashi, Executive Director of the Tourism Promotion Board. “It will be easy to attract people from the Gulf countries, especially during the summer since Yemen has the best weather in the Gulf region and there are many places to visit. This will also encourage the private sector to go to the GCC countries and draw tourists to come to Yemen.”
The Ministry of Interior is also working towards eliminating tourists having to get permission to travel outside the capital and having to be escorted to visit a number of areas across the country. According to Al-Mahbashi, the government will make it easier for tourists to travel in the country within the next couple of weeks.
According to Al-Mahbashi, the government is committed to implement important changes to assist Yemen's tourism industry, which has suffering since the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. The fighting in the north of Yemen between government forces and armed supporters of the Muslim cleric Hussein Al-Houthi has also had a negative effect on the number of tourists deciding on coming to visit the country.
According to the Tourism Promotion Board, even though there have been setbacks, over 80,000 tourists came to Yemen in the first half of this year. In 2003, Yemen took in a little over 150,000 tourists.
Another obstacle is travel warnings about Yemen issued from a number of other countries. Last month, the government of Great Britain lifted its warning on British citizens wanting to travel to Yemen. Whilst last week, the US State Department dropped its danger warning for Americans traveling to Jordan. The US government continued its travel warning for American citizens traveling to Yemen, recommending them to consider the risks of visiting Yemen.
The US travel warning also included Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Libya, Indonesia, Somalia, Algeria, Sudan and Iran.