Tourism for pleasure [Archives:2007/1064/Reportage]

July 2 2007
Nothing more exciting than a four-wheel drive adventure in the unpaved roads of Socatra.
Nothing more exciting than a four-wheel drive adventure in the unpaved roads of Socatra.
Faud Mussa'ad
“Yemen has enormous tourist potential and attractions represented in its unique natural resorts, long beaches and amazing islands that are ideal for pleasure tourism,” says Abdu Assenwi, deputy assistant of Yemen's General Tourism Development Authority.

Pleasure tourism refers to sightseeing and activities such as fishing, diving, skiing and camping. Once an ancient and well-known type of tourism, it now is widespread all over the world, comprising 80 percent of world tourism.

Countries along the Mediterranean Sea basin are the best attractions for such tourism due to their rich tourist resources including warm climates, eye-catching beaches and many other assets.

Commenting on this issue, Assenwi added that his authority is working day and night to improve and give Yemen's islands a facelift through conducting field visits accompanied by technical teams to analyze the needs of these marvelous islands.

“Furthermore, the authority has drafted numerous coastal investment projects, which were presented and discussed during the Investment Opportunities Conference,” Assenwi noted.

Yemen undeniably has remarkable tourist resources and historical sites qualifying it to take the lead in terms of tourist attractions in the entire region, if not internationally. However, according to Assenwi, Yemeni tourism suffers due to negligence and lack of solid infrastructure, both essential requirements to meet tourists' needs and pave the way for tourism investment.

Shortage of such basic tourist requirements not only results in giving a bad impression and dissatisfaction to tourists, it also reflects negatively on the general tourism situation in Yemen.

According to a study of the entire Arab region, the key challenges hindering the revival of tourism investment can be summarized as:

1- An apparent decline in institutional tourism planning as an important source of local and regional income, as well as lack of a tourism organizational structure that can address current challenges and benefit from available opportunities.

2- Shortage of supportive financial factors such as bank loans to investors and high taxes imposed on tourism facilities.

3- A complicated process of obtaining entrance visas and high fees enforced to visit some tourist attractions.

4- Insufficient airline destinations and lavish entrance taxes. Because current Arab and international flight destinations are inadequate, new direct destinations are required to connect and facilitate tourist transport at competitive prices.

5- Poor tourism infrastructure.

6- Lack of tourism planning and uncertain vision withholds investment activity.

Other obstacles also may directly influence tourism, including economic and political instability, bureaucratic procedures of obtaining a tourism facility license, unstable national currency, lack of qualified staff and outdated labor laws that don't match modern investment concepts.

Assenwi said his authority has communicated continuously with concerned ministries, particularly the Ministry of Planning, explaining and listing the tourist sector's needs and priorities, including roads, water, electricity, telecommunications and other infrastructure components crucial for investment and attracting foreign tourists.

Assenwi further believes that establishing tourism investment banks to provide loans with minimal interest to investors will revitalize Yemen's tourism sector and create more tourism investment opportunities. Due to the high cost of investment projects, such banks will contribute significantly to Yemen's tourism evolvement.

Consequently, the government will be fully responsible to focus more on the tourism industry in line with the sector's significance as one of the world's essential economic sources. While there are numerous examples of countries that could successfully employ tourism and utilize its potential economically, they lack the outstanding tourism prospects that Yemen enjoys.

Regardless of problems encountered, the future of Yemeni tourism is very promising. Tourism investment and an increasing number of tourists visiting the country is an indication of the bright future ahead for tourism in Yemen.

Despite the significance of this type of tourism to the national economy, some undesirable outcomes accompany it, such as the so-called “tourist marriage” phenomenon, which recently has spread and struck many beautiful Yemeni areas. Such marriages have led to many social tragedies and left numerous victims in a society where morals and religious values are quite dominant.