Will government fulfil tourism-related promises? [Archives:2006/996/Local News]

November 6 2006

Imad Al-Saqqaf
SANA'A, Nov. 5 )The tourism industry play a major role in most country's economy and development and to keep pace Yemen needs to pay more attention to tourism and the double efforts aimed at improving the tourism sector and exploiting all different features and components of tourism in different areas.

Bab Al-Mandab, district, 180 km west of Taiz, is one of the most important promising tourist areas in the country. The district only has 18,300 people and most of them are fishermen and it has a great location with 2500 km of coastline on the Red Sea and Arab Sea. The area is rich with huge marine wealth and fisheries such as the Arab Fish and Derrick, exported to many nearby countries including Saudi Arabia. Also, Bab Al-Mandab district enjoys many promising investment components.

Before the Reunification, the district was isolated and deprived due to being located in the border region. Locals in the area had poor living standards with vulnerable economic conditions plus a lack of health and education services. Even after reunification the poor situation remained.

However, Sana'a recently announced its need for over US $ 60 million to ensure Bab Al-Mandab Strait's future and complete building a system to ensure safety of ships and protect the shores from piracy, as well as to fight marine pollution. In 2005 Yemen and Italy signed an agreement on the project of ship services at Bab Al-Mandab Strait.

During his most recent visit to Bab Al-Mandab President Saleh gave directives to the concerned parties to construct a tourist housing development to be composed of 400 housing units with a total cost exceeding one billion riyals. The project, which the president proposed, aims to make the area prosper and provide more job opportunities to its locals, who continue to suffer with poor living standards.

Ibrahim Hassan, a local in the district, said the proposal of establishing the housing development is merely a series of promises the government has so far made for locals. Meanwhile, Fahd Al-Muntaser expressed concern about the living standards and boredom associated with awaiting unfulfilled government promises.

Bab Al-Mandab is not the only coastal area in our country that suffers ignorance and deprivation and its locals live below the poverty line without an access to health and education services. But the region does enjoy all the features that attract investment and tourism, in addition to other economic development components.

There are other coastal areas, such as Al-Makha, that suffer the same condition and require the government to pay closer attention to rehabilitate their economic resources, which in turn can help support the national economy. Al-Makha and its port neighboring Bab Al-Mandab have their own historic reputation. The city's port is the main entrance for people travelling between Yemen and the Horn of Africa, as well as a destination for exporting local products to Djibouti and Somalia.

Al-Makha port is composed of two docks, the first is 150 meters long and the second is 175 meter long while its depth is estimated at 27 meters. The port contains tankers for oil coming from Aden Refineries and other tankers for vegetable and locomotive oils.

The true importance of Al-Makha comes because most of its people depend on trade activities. The port contributes nearly YR 1 billion yearly to the state's annual budget and 70 percent of this money comes from the customs levied on livestock. In addition, the domestic products exported via the port to Djibouti and Somalia add more than YR 3 billion to the state's annual budget.

Despite these facts, the government doesn't pay enough attention to such a historic port and potential tourist attraction.