Researchers & Practitioners Chart the Course for Tourism Investing in Tourism [Archives:1997/43/Business & Economy]

October 27 1997

Ismail Al-Ghabiry, Yemen Times
Organized by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a symposium on the ways and means to “Encourage Investments in Tourism” was recently held in Sanaa. The symposium was attended by tour and travel agents, as well as representatives of the business community.
Three following major papers were submitted and discussed in the symposium.
1. The Importance of Tourism The first paper highlighted the importance of tourism, which it described as an ever expanding and renewable industry. The revenue from tourism during 1995 was $50 million, i.e., 1.5% of the GDP or 2.5% of the total export revenue of the country. If the oil revenue is excluded, then tourism would account for 30% of exports. The tourism revenue rose by 10% in 1996. Tourism is a national resource that will never be exhausted. It is also a crucial factor in developing the necessary infrastructure and encouraging the expansion of traditional handicrafts, folklore activities, cottage industry, etc.
2. Elements of Tourism in Yemen The second paper addressed the factors that make tourism viable in Yemen. It gave the following factors as conducive to tourism growth: * An ancient history and a culture rich in folklore. * The climatic and topographical variety. * The 2000-km long coastal line. * More than 112 islands and islets in the Red and Arabian seas. * The availability of natural mineral and sulfuric waters. It is an integrated economic, cultural and social activity. * The unique architecture, exotic archeology and traditional handicrafts.
The paper warned that tourism is an integrated economic activity that requires cooperation among many sectors – travel, hotel, food, security, immigration, municipal, etc. It also pointed to the need for more active and effective government involvement. It especially called for investments in the road network. The internal roads in Yemen extend to a total length of 69,000 km. Only 12% of these roads are asphalted, 24% are just paved, and the rest are just leveled. There are only two international roads connecting Yemen to Saudi Arabia and Oman respectively. Another field is the airports and harbors. There are 5 international airports (Sanaa, Aden, Taiz, Hodeidah and Mukalla) and 12 local airports and 3 major sea ports (Hodeida, Aden and Mukalla). There is also need for government investments in electricity, telephone lines, postal services, etc. Finally it pointed to the need for laws to regulate and govern the tourism sector.
3. Opportunities for Investment The third presentation was on the opportunities to invest in the development of the tourism services, resorts and establishments. According to the 1996 statistics, there are 229 hotels, 126 travel agencies, 292 restaurants, 289 cafeterias, 327 cafes, 34 parks, and 3 rest houses registered with the authorities in Yemen. The development and expansion of these services and utilities is open for the private sector. The government has already privatized 29 out of 39 tourist establishments designated for privatization by the end of 1996. This means that there is a big space for private investment.
Recommendations Many of the participants thought that the security issue was a bottleneck in the growth of this sector. The repeated kidnapping of foreigners was mentioned time and again as a practice giving the country a bad name. They called on the state authorities to firmly deal with this matter. At the end of the deliberations, the participants in the symposium recommended the following: 1- The Ministry of Culture and Tourism should plan together with the relevant bodies to raise awareness of the importance of tourism among the various sectors of society. 2- Protecting and preserving Yemen’s historical and cultural heritage and environment. 3- The media must take part in reviving the Yemeni folkloric heritage. Special festivals and carnivals need to be organized as tourist attractions on a regular basis. 4- Government bodies must work to facilitate the progress of investments in tourism sector. 5- Castles, fortresses and other historical sites must be protected and renovated. 6- Security and stability are vital for attracting investments and tourists. 7- The Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the General Tourism Authority, the Yemeni Society for Travel and Tourism Agencies, and the chambers of commerce must all cooperate in organizing awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of tourism. 8- Visa and entry procedures for foreign tourists through all air, sea, and land entry points must be simplified. 9- The movement and transportation of foreign tourists within the country must be facilitated, and all possible security precautions taken. 10- Visa and transit fees must be reviewed and reduced. 11- Improving the infrastructure. 12- Well-developed tourism transportation routes to and from airports should be established. 13- National and local investors should be called upon to participate in developing the tourism sector.