Yemen to enhance tourism [Archives:2003/696/Business & Economy]
By Yasser Al-Mayasi
The Yemeni Government is adopting a strategy it hopes will attract close to 500,000 tourists in 2004 and eventually one million tourists a year thereafter. Yemen is trying to win a share of about 20% of Southeast Asian tourism market, which has a concentration of Yemeni population. The Government spent U. S. $80 million during this year compared to U. S. $76 million in 2000, and U. S. $85 million in 1998. Reports show that there is a potential that 90,000 tourists may arrive in Yemen prior to the end of the year compared to 80,000 and 82,000 in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Yemeni tourist companies announced in several conferences losses of 40% to 60% of their revenues as a result of terrorist acts in Yemen lately as the attacks on the USS Cole, the French oil tanker Limburg and kidnapping of tourists. These attacks and others witnessed by some Yemeni cities negatively impacted tourism since the 1990s when tourist numbers declined by 40%, and 90% of reservations were cancelled. This almost paralyzed the tourism industry in Yemen. Tourist companies are now trying to win back their share of the world tourism market by concentrating on East Asia, the Arab Gulf, and Africa. Prime Minister Abdulgader Bajammal, emphasized on a number of occasions lately on the importance of tourism promotion especially relative to Yemeni islands as they represent important attractions to support the Yemeni economy.
Yemen has a number of islands along its 2,500 km coastal line. The largest group of these islands is Socotra archipelago islands, Hunaish which became famous as a result of the conflict over it between Yemen and Eritrea, of which Yemen proved its ownership. As a result of the importance of the role these islands play in the Yemeni tourism industry, the Government formed a committee to oversee the development and preservation of the islands. The Committee drafted legislation governing the development, services, and investment mechanisms in those islands as well as turning them into natural sanctuaries. Tourist promotion campaigns have begun about Yemeni islands on the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Arabian Sea, which will not only benefit the national economy, but enable the central government to better control and protect them from potential terrorist groups. Some of the potential investment projects for these islands are building refueling stations for ships, hotels, tourist resorts, and factories for canning fish and exporting directly from there. The construction of a YR 1.5 billion worth airport on Socotra Island, and providing it with a number of other investment attraction projects are proofs of the interest of the Government in those islands.