TOURISM IN ADEN: “Where is the end of the tunnel?” [Archives:1998/41/Business & Economy]

October 12 1998


The tourism sector in Aden is now practically stagnant, despite of the city’s numerous attractions. In an attempt to ascertain the causes of this economic downturn, Ridhwan Al-Saqqaf, Yemen Times Aden Bureau Chief, met several people concerned with tourist activity in that world-famous seaside city.
Mr. Mohammed Abdulqawi Al-Moflihi, General Manager, Arab Investment and Tourism Company Ltd.
“This stagnation in tourism has created many financial difficulties for us, especially to our investments in the Aden Hotel. This may actually affect the company’s investments elsewhere. Nevertheless, we are still optimistic about investing in Yemen.
“In order to encourage tourism in this country, a continuous promotional campaign must be conducted. People, both in this country and abroad, must be made aware of the unique attractions Yemen offers. There are marvelous, remote archeological sites and historical cities that can enchant Western visitors. Such places will have to be restored and preserved first.
“The state and the private sector must actively cooperate to successfully sell Yemen abroad. Brochures, booklets, guidebooks, tourist maps and other material must be published and sold at airports, seaports, etc. “Visitors must be given a good impression the moment they set foot on this land. Public facilities and services must be updated to help tourists have an enjoyable stay in this country.
“President Ali Abdullah Saleh is personally concerned with tourism as a major source of revenue. The most important factors to help tourism are security and stability.”
Mr. Aidrous Obaid, PR Manager, Aden Hotel
“I believe one effective way to promote tourism in Yemen is to open an office in Europe. Its task will be to present the country to potential European visitors. Various promotional activities can be organized by such office.
“Tourist facilities in this country are not enough. We and many others working in the tourism sector face many difficulties. The numbers of tourists visiting Aden have dropped markedly, leading to big losses in revenue. The state does not provide adequate facilities.
“Electricity costs are astronomical. We receive a bill of approximately YR 5 million for electricity consumption for just a month and a half; although, only about 22% of the hotel is in use. The Aden Hotel employs 200 people and pays an annual rent of $1 million! So it can be seen why we are making such losses.
“Also very important is to hold some of the conferences, seminars, and other gatherings in Aden and other cities, not just in Sanaa. With the way things are going now, Aden will soon not need a five-star hotel. International delegations which normally use such a hotel are just not coming to Aden any more. Tour operators working in Sanaa should really include visits to Aden and other cities in their tourist programs.”
Mr. Abdulwahab Al-Sharjabi, Board Chairman, Al-Hilal Hotel and Al-Hilal Company for Tourist Investment Ltd.
“Yemen boasts many attractive tourist features. If exploited correctly, these attractions can largely consolidate the tourism industry; thereby, creating a huge national revenue and new job opportunities. Tourism is closely connected with many other productive and service sectors such as trade, agriculture, transportation, etc.
“A national tourism policy must be formulated where the role of the tourist industry in the national economy is made fully clear. A marketing policy must also be established, where active participation in international tourist exhibitions and gatherings is emphasized. Yemeni participants in such events must be chosen from among people with wide experience and expertise in tourist matters. They must be able to deal efficiently with the international markets. Yemeni exhibitions and cultural weeks must also be organized in places as Japan, South Africa, Canada, etc, which represent a possible source of visitors.
“Extra care should be given to keeping our towns and cities clean. The cost of the entry visa – $90 – will have to be reviewed.
“Investment in tourism is now almost limited to medium and small-scale projects. This is probably due to many problems related to land ownership, lack of funds, stifling bureaucracy, several types of big taxes, etc. Tourist projects must be given priority and provided with low-interest loans.
“A zoning policy must be adopted. Lands must be allocated for industrial, commercial and tourist projects. Now lands are sold without any planning or specifying the type of construction or activity to be held on it. This is bound to be very harmful to the environment.
“Crescent Hotel is the oldest hotel in the Arabian Peninsula – more than 70 years old. It hosted many world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II. It has been recently fully renovated and refurbished at a cost of $1.5 million. The eastern and western wings have been opened for the September/October celebrations.”
Mr. B Gopinath, General Manager, Elephant Bay resort
“Aden has a very a long stretch of beautiful beaches that are not yet fully exploited for tourism. There could be water ski-ing, scuba diving, etc. which would encourage tourists coming to Yemen to want to visit Aden as part of their trip.
“The small number of tourists visiting Yemen can be attributed to lack of proper promotional activities. All those who visited Aden and other places around Aden have left with great impressions. But not many people know about what the city has go to offer. It is almost forgotten despite its exotic beaches.
“The main problem facing would-be visitors to Aden is that there are no direct flights to Aden from abroad. Travelers have to go to Sanaa first. Tourism is no less important than the free-trade zone project. Business and tourism should go hand-in-hand.
“Moreover, some social and cultural restrictions must be eased in order for tourists to relax and enjoy themselves. Tourists should be allowed to travel freely within the country. Sanitation and hygiene must also be carefully observed.