Yemen sees rise in tourists [Archives:2006/957/Business & Economy]

June 22 2006

Mahoub Al-Kamali
Until recently, the Yemeni tourism industry has witnessed continuous cycles of growth and recession due to various factors. In spite of the many natural attractions the country has)such as untouched beaches and islands and rare wildlife)Yemen's tourism industry has suffered from unpredictability.

Against this backdrop, the newly established Ministry of Tourism conducted a study on trends in tourism that indicates the period from 2002 to 2005 saw an unrecorded growth in the number of tourists coming into Yemen. The trend shows a steady rise in tourists visiting Yemen with double-digit-growth figures averaging at 41 percent during the period.

The study links the growth to the relative political stability the country has enjoyed, coupled with the hostility between Arabs and the West in the aftermath of 11 September 2001. Detritus of the unstable state of relations between the West and Arab states include the invasion of Iraq and travel warnings cautioning visiting the Middle East, which have resulted in increased intra-Arab travel benefiting countries such as Jordan, Syria, and Yemen.

During the 2002-2005 period, Arab tourists to Yemen constituted a little over 65 percent of all tourists visiting Yemen, pushing European tourists to second place and Asians to third place. In 2005, 284,221 tourists visited Yemen creating tourism-associated revenues to $262 million (USD). This figure is a huge increase from the mere $20 million (USD) that tourists spent in Yemen in 1990.

Along the same lines, infrastructure for the tourism industry has expanded to meet the increased demand. The study mentioned that the number of tourist facilities have jumped to 2,890 in 2005 from only 768 in 1991, a number still inadequate to meet the growth in demand expected in the years to come.

In a statement to Yemen Times, Nabil Al-Faquih, Minister of Tourism, said that his ministry is working on a comprehensive plan to promote tourism in Yemen. The plan includes a marketing campaign aimed at informing prospective tourists about Yemen's unique attractions. The plan is part of a long-term strategy to develop the tourism industry so that it becomes a pillar of the national economy.

To that end, AbdulRahim Al-Sabri, Director of Licenses Unit within the Ministry of Tourism, indicated that investments in tourism facilities have steadily increased by an average of 18 percent annually since 2001. He pointed out an on-going study to assess opportunities for investment in the Yemeni tourism industry including the hotels, resorts, recreational parks, clubs, health spas, and other facilities that will be presented at an investor's conference to be held in Sana'a in February 2007.

Plans to develop national infrastructure have occasionally been harmonized with plans to develop the tourism industry. For example, 301 roads were constructed with the purpose of providing access to locations deemed important to the tourism industry.