Reviving Tourism in Yemen: Too Much Talk, Too Little Work [Archives:1999/35/Culture]

August 30 1999

Ismail Al-Ghabiry 
Yemen Times 
The talk about the current situation of tourism investment in Yemen can not be separated from the talk about tourism in Yemen and its features, as well as the nature and volume of investment. What are the obstacles to investment in Yemen, in general, and tourism investment in particular? The tourism sector is extremely devastating and continues to decline. Despite that, not much is being done in practice to stop this decline, which is costing the country millions of dollars every year. 
As reported by the International Organization for Tourism, Yemen holds the 18th position (the last one) among the other Mid-East countries in regards to the number of tourists visiting it. The same report indicated that, tourists coming to Yemen are from limited European countries like Germany, France, Italy and Britain. Hence, we think that it is very necessary to present Yemen as a tourist country to the other countries that are ignorant of Yemen. At the same time, we should concentrate on the Arab tourists and providing them with tourist attractions. Coming back to the deplorable situation of tourism in Yemen, we find that it does not agree with the tourist attractions Yemen is gifted with. This is because most of the touristic places haven’t been discovered yet while the available ones are not properly managed. 
Tourism infrastructure 
The tourism infrastructure in Yemen is not strong enough to make a great move in the field of investment in general, and tourism investment in particular. In fact, great attention must be paid to the tourism infrastructure, as well as to the places aimed at for tourist investment. 
Are the tourist establishments working in Yemen sufficient? 
One-star hotels form 55% of the total number of hotels available in Yemen. The number of rooms in such hotels forms 27% of the total number of hotel rooms while their beds form 43% of the total number of beds in all hotels. Such hotels are considered to be the preferable retreat for the domestic tourists. Unfortunately, the capacity of these hotels as well as the accommodation offered by them is not as it should be. Another problem facing the domestic tourism is that most of the tourist service centers are mostly located in the main cities. However, provides a good a chance for tourist investment in places other than the main cities. 
Features of the tourist investment at the present time 
The general atmosphere of investment and tourism in Yemen is shaped by a set of positive circumstances as well as the development Yemen has witnessed since its reunification on May 22, 1990. For example: 
– The democratic policy followed by the government 
– Security and stability 
– The free market policy 
– Encouraging the private sector in the field of investment 
– The execution of the Financial and Administrative Reform Program. 
The investment law that was issued in 1991, grants investors a lot of guaranties and facilities. Yet, there is a problem in applying this law in reality, as well as the insufficiency of guaranties offered. At the same time there are a lot of obstacles to the execution of the tourist investment projects. Chief among them are the following: 
– The lands and locations licensed for such projects are randomly given out. 
– The cost of partnership. 
In spite of this, tourism can still be a fertile field for foreign investors to invest in. 
Tourist Facilities 
Regarding the tourist facilities, they are still insufficient. For example, the official routine in many authorities, such as immigration, passports, airports, harbors,customs and alike. These authorities should be more considerate of the following: 
– Drawing a rosy picture of our country in the eyes of the investors and tourists. 
– Providing documented information about the requirements of investment in Yemen. 
– Providing services and consults for the investors, as well as giving them all the possible facilities. 
Tourist investment obstacles 
The most outstanding obstacles to tourism and tourist investment are the following: 
– The insufficiency of the judiciary. 
– The absence of the state control in some tribes, villages and remote districts. 
– The insufficiency of the tourism infrastructure. 
– The insufficiency of tourism laws. 
– The lack of resources to support the investment projects. 
– The absence of a good coordination between the ministries and the other organizations which are concerned about tourism and investment. 
– The absence of tourist attractions and this is mainly due to the following: 
– The dirty streets and areas. 
– The polluted environment. 
– The carelessness about the tourist places. 
– The lack of the tourist-service centers. 
Suggested Actions that are Required Immediately 
– Making judiciary a separate authority. 
– Punishing all the responsible for kidnapping tourists. 
– Prohibiting the carrying of weapons, especially in tourist locations. 
– Specifying the responsibilities of the local Authorities. 
– Organizing the responsibilities of both the General Organization for Investment and the Ministry of Tourism. 
– Protecting the lands and locations specified for investment and tourist projects. 
– Organizing the tourist activities. 
– Specifying the places and lands of that are suitable for future investment projects. 
– Allocating a fairly reasonable budget for advertising the beautiful tourist attractions in Yemen.