Gnawing at Tourism [Archives:2001/41/Culture]

October 8 2001

Hisham al-Qubati
Yemen Times
It is a pity that while the tourism industry in Yemen is declining, some officials help worsen the situation. The behavior of some of them is simply disgusting!
Many tourists complain about being annoyed by unwelcome companions, who, at times, are more parasites than the ‘friendly Yemenis’ they might be attempting to be.
They impose themselves on tourists, and disgustingly ask for everything, even hotel accommodation.
In my last trip with a foreigner in a Yemeni village, we were preparing to leave the hotel for a drive around the area when a group of Yemenis approached us. They said they had been instructed from above to bodyguard us. We accepted their company since it was their job, not knowing that they would become a bad example of Yemeni hospitality.
Driving through a lot of eye-catching places, we had to provide food and water for them. They also spent their nights at the same hotels–and we paid the bill! To make the matter even worse, when the trip was over, they ask for travel allowances! Even at check points in the main road, members of security that drove with us between check points, wanted transportation allowance to return to the previous check point. Ikeep wondering whether such behavior is legal, and if it is approved by the Ministry of Tourism and other authorities. It was very difficult trying to explain to the tourist if all companions behave this way.
Many tourists plan their visits very carefully and accurately. They calculate every penny they plan on spending for accommodation and traveling from one city to another. They probably do not expect to be paying a Yemeni officials to do their job. The tourist I was with asked me to explain to the officials that he was not supposed to pay them to carry out an ordered assignment — and he is exactly right.
Interestingly, one of the tourist police pleaded that all tourist police do the same. “You can even ask the driver and he will tell you that it is true,” he said.
The tourism industry in Yemen has been receiving continued blows, starting with kidnapping incidents to the September 11th attack on Washington and New York. It is surprising that instead of trying to overcome the consequences of such mishaps, its people gnaw at it from inside.