Travel and tourism in Yemen is to exceed YR 1 trillion in 2015From doom to boom [Archives:2005/891/Front Page]

November 3 2005


There are several signs for a healthier travel and tourism sector in Yemen as the flow of tourists has increased steadily in 2005, consequently placing Yemen in the second rank after UAE among all Arab countries in terms of tourism growth; a recent report by Qabas International Economic Consultants (QIEC) revealed.

This comes in correlation with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) report released earlier this year, which estimated that the travel and tourism sector in Yemen will generate more than YR 300 billion (USD 1.5 billion) of economic activity in 2005, and will grow three folds to a staggering YR one trillion by 2015.

The UK-based international organization said that Yemen will become the second fastest growing Arab country with a 5.9% annualized real growth rate in travel and tourism during (2006-2015) just ahead of Egypt with a nominal difference of 0.1%.

The high growth rate is partially attributed to the relative security in the last few years, compared to the late 1990s when kidnapping of foreign tourists was a phenomenon causing a drop in the number of tourists coming to the country.

The report gave hope by reiterating the tourism growth potentials in the country, which it viewed as mostly unexploited: “Yemen appears poised to regain its long-term level of growth forecast for Travel and Tourism after suffering some disappointing results in 2004 especially for Visitor Exports, which posted a significant loss for the year.” the report said.

Yemen in the Arab world

Although Yemen's tourism share in the Arab world is relatively insignificant, the potential and possibilities in this sector will give it an edge in conditional if the country continues to enjoy good political stability and security.

While other countries, such as Egypt and the UAE, have almost reached saturated levels of tourism compelling them to face significant challenges to keep this momentum growing without massive transformations in their infrastructure, Yemen has a tourism industry that is at its infancy, but which will require massive investments particularly in the infrastructure and building human resources capability aspects.

The Arab countries' share of international tourism is among the least in the world. According to the report released by QIEC, in 2002, Arab countries altogether represented a mere 5.3 per cent of international tourism, However, Yemen's growth prospects is expected to increase its share of tourism revenues in the Arab world, and potentially increase the overall share of Arab countries as a whole.

The World Tourism Organization described Yemen as “a hospitable and attractive tourism destination that is unique in its culture, civilization and diversity of terrain, and in featuring the coastal, sport, marine, and mountainous tourism attractions.”

Contribution to GDP

The WTTC report said that Yemen's travel and tourism industry is expected to contribute 1.9% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2005 (YR 50.5 billion or USD 253.2 million), rising in nominal terms to YR 133.7 billion or USD 367.5 million (1.8% of total) by 2015. Hence the sector's economic contribution (percent of total) should rise from 8.5% (YR 223.5 billion or USD 1,120.6 million) to 10.3% (YR 747.8 billion or USD 2,055.8 million) in this same period.

The report estimated that Yemen's travel and tourism would provide 417,246 jobs in 2005, which constitutes 7.2% of total employment, or one in every 13.9 jobs. By 2015, this should total 688,223 jobs, 8.6% of total employment or one in every 11.6 jobs. The 96,431 industry jobs account for 1.7% of total employment in 2005 and are forecast to total 126,202 jobs or 1.6% of the total by 2015.

“In Yemen, exports make up a very important share of travel and tourism's contribution to GDP.” the report noted. Of total Yemen exports, the sector is expected to generate 13% (YR 134 billion or USD 671 million) in 2005, increasing to YR 528 billion, or USD 1,452 million (11.7% of total), in 2015.

Major challenges ahead

According to the governmental National Information Center, the major challenges facing Yemen are due to the weak infrastructure which cannot meet the growing demand in the tourism sector; the lack of qualified human capital which aids in setting up the tourism industry and prepare the environment to become more tourism-friendly coupled with the lack of law enforcement particularly in regulating the carrying of weapons and lack of awareness of the importance of tourism are the most important challenges that lie ahead.

However, the Yemeni government is keen to address the importance of tourism and in fact called the year 2005, the year of tourism. Foreign Minister Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi told Asharq Al-Awsat regional daily in an interview published last week that the government is actively seeking foreign investments to develop the tourism sector.

“Tourism can be developed in Yemen, for there are areas that have better tourist attractions than the places GCC tourists' visit.” he said, noting that the revenues generated from tourism in Gulf countries could be matched and surpassed if the tourism industry in Yemen is developed properly.

Local tourism flourishing

Meanwhile, the level of local tourism has grown steadily in the last few years and in 2005 exceeded half a million tourists annually. Many of those tourists come from neighboring countries or are Yemenis residing abroad, while many are residents enjoying local tourism inside the country; mainly the residents of inland cities visiting coastal areas to enjoy the Yemeni beaches and the pleasant weather; for example hotel rooms in the port Aden are usually fully booked weeks before the Eid vacation, causing inconvenience for many travelers who end up in tents or are forced to pay excessive fees for accommodation as a result of the shortage in supply.

Despite the positive contribution of local tourism to the national economy, economic experts believe that it is yet to be taken full advantage of and regulated to benefit a larger portion of the community. By facilitating investments in the tourism sector, limiting bureaucracy in movement of vehicles and people from and to the country, local tourism could double or triple in the coming years.

The National Information Center predicts by 2010, there will be more than 711,000 local tourists, while the number of foreign tourists may rise to about 150,000.