The government offers 183 islands to potential investors:2005: Year for tourism [Archives:2005/810/Front Page]

January 24 2005
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In a move to emphasize Yemen's commitment to make the year 2005 the year for a booming tourism sector, the government had offered 183 islands in the Red and Arabian Seas and in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean to investors willing to use the fascinating natural beauty and strategic location to establish tourist projects.

Unique offer to investors

The offer, which was declared in an international conference last December exposed the spectacular potential of the islands and pledged to offer all sorts of facilities to Arab or foreign investors willing to take advantage of this offer.

The General Manager of the Yemeni Islands Development Authority, Dr. Yahya Al-Kainai said that the offer was huge in magnitude and constituted an excellent opportunity to make good profit from investing in pioneer projects in the 183 islands. “Great investment potentials are available in tourism, fishery, sea life, industry, trade, transport, agriculture, livestock, electricity, water, communication, digital messaging, and monetary services.” Dr. Yahya said.

Furthermore, the government has also pledged to establish a special investment oriented bank in the Island of Socotra and help establish competitive and free market that would provide many options for investors willing to invest in the island. It is hoped that this step will also help provide the inhabitants of Socotra and other regions with thousands of job opportunities.

Some challenges ahead

However, the main challenge that would confront any investor who wishes to seize the opportunity is the lack of any infrastructures in the 183 islands offered. Furthermore, transportation back and forth the mainland would have to be arranged on a privately funded basis, as there are no public services in this respect. This creates a stumbling stone for many willing investors. The government however is studying the possibility of creating partnerships and common solutions with investors to overcome this difficulty.

Zuqar and Hunaish islands

The Eritrean occupation of Zuqar and Hunaish islands in 1998 had sabotaged the Zuqar islands project, which was supposed to have been in advanced stage by now. It was started by a UK company that had realized the great potentials in transforming the islands into a tourist haven with an advanced and modern infrastructure.

The government hopes that similar initiatives would now be reborn and implemented in Hunaish and Zuqar islands, which would set the stage for other investors to do similar projects in other islands scattered around Yemen.

Infrastructure projects planned

The Yemeni Islands Development Authority has declared that a plan is currently being drafted to carry out a number of infrastructure and service projects in the Kamaran-Zuqar-Hanish Archipelago in the Red Sea similar to those already being implemented in Socotra Island in the Indian Ocean. The projects would include the building of marine services and airports, hospitals, schools, ground transportation routes, electricity, and communication services.

Remembering Jabal Zuqar project

Jabal Zuqar project was going to be one of the largest tourism projects in Yemen's history if it were not for the Eritrean occupation in 1998. British company Aztec Island Development Ltd started structuring to enable the study, finance and management of Jabal Zuqar (Zoqar) Island Resort project in the Red Sea off the West coast of Yemen. Studies have been conducted over the last two years and the pre-build study was due to be finished in 2002.

Visits to the island by consultants and company representatives have identified on Jabal Zuqar sites for port facilities, airport location, development sites for construction of hotels, villas, marinas, logistics and supply sites. A visit by Philip Lacey of Global ports has identified four sites for cruise ships and small cruisers as well as a supply and facilities port, each site assessed for its possible use and for environmental impact on the reef and coastline of the island. The next stage of this process was to cost and design brief each site with a view to picking the site most amenable to the eventual proposed development. Discussions with potential contractors, consultants and long-term working partners started to take place and the first contracts were to be signed in February 2002. Physical operations on site for engineering assessment etc. were planned to take place thereafter.

However, it was a pity that the project had to stop because of the Yemen-Eritrea dispute regarding the island. However, investors are now seriously reviewing the possibility of reviving the project and having it implemented in the coming years.

Features of Yemeni islands

The natural habitat and the spectacular beauty of the Yemeni islands' beaches make them an excellent attraction for tourists from Europe and other parts of the world. The Yemeni authorities are promoting the islands considering them a perfect environmental habitat for scientists to explore and for eco-tourists to enjoy. Among the attractions that the islands offer are diving, surfings, boat racing, swimming, and other water sports.

Dr. Al-Kainai confirmed this by saying that the islands “enjoy rich biological diversity with some species that are unique to the islands. There are more than 2,400 types of coral and 700 types of aquarium fish, 500 types of Mollusk, 200 species of fish, 113 types of marine plants, and 292 kinds of land plants.”

He also pointed out that the islands are rich in Mangroves, which are serving as home for more than 360 species of birds.

Great demand by investors

According to Dr. Al-Kainai, there have been a number of requests delivered to the government to invest in those islands. Among them was a memo signed in December with an Australian company specialized in investments in tourism and energy. The company will start its projects in the islands of Kamaran and Socotra.

Furthermore, a number of other Turkish, Ukrainian and Arab companies have also expressed interest and they were told that their offers are being studied.