Yemeni tourism during 2005 [Archives:2006/943/Business & Economy]

May 4 2006

By: Mohammed Rageh
“Tourism industry in Yemen is still not very active and the amount of its contribution to the national economy is still lagging behind the required level”. With this introducing phrase the State Authority of Tourist Development prefaced its annual report. This is a phrase that has been repeated throughout the past years in press and economic reports. However, the phrase this time is part of an official report issued by the Tourism Authority monitoring indicators of the tourist sector in 2005 which is termed as the year of tourism in Yemen.

In the year 2004, Yemen had witnessed various types of activities as it was declared as Capital of Arab culture, with financial appropriations amounting to one billion YR available in the budget of the ministry of culture. The government wanted to maintain the same momentum. Thus, it launched the motto of that considers the year of 2005 as a year of tourism in Yemen. It is a title indicating a promotional plan aimed at activating tourism movement after many failures caused by the war on terror and kidnappings of foreign tourists for which Yemen was known. Those failures had affected the tourist sector with stagnation despite the fact that Yemen possesses great potential components enough to push forward the industry of tourism. Those factors have not been properly exploited in developing competitive capabilities of this vital economic sector.

Incoming tourism in Yemen goes in an opposite direction to a dominating world climate that has seen big growth in world tourism. As incoming tourism in Yemen has remained in limited boundaries despite expansion in world tourism. Nonetheless, the general direction of international incoming tourism in Yemen had witnessed big growth by the end of 2006, as the report indicates. The average annual growth has reached 24%, which is a high average in the region as compared to previous years that witnessed many shakes in tourism sector due to many different factors, economic, social and political, with the war on terror and kidnappings as serious factors in addition to negligence of tourist historical sites and poor services in tourist facilities.

The two past years have witnessed a kind of stability in tourism activity in Yemen and last year was specified as the tourist year and there were held many promotional activities. That has increased the number of tourists coming to Yemen. Indicators of tourist sector point out that in 2005, 203 thousand tourists had arrived in Yemen with an increase of 130 thousand tourists compared to 2004. By the end of 2005 the average annual growth of international tourist nights amounted to 43% and is expected to increase to 1218 thousand tourists.

The report also tackles the topic of local tourism mentioning that there were indicators of its growth. Local tourism acquires great importance as it plays a big role in development of sites possessing tourist components besides of its being a guarantee for continuation in operating hotels and an increase in proportion of hotel job opportunities, especially at seasons of international tourism absence. Local tourism is a fixed factor not subject to surprise fluctuations. The report mentions that average growth of this tourism movement in 2005 amounted to 10%, recording an increase in comparison with the previous two years.

On tourism impact on Yemen economy statistical information and statements the nature of tourism, development and results are scarce and unreliable. This situation makes the government and the private sector and the society lack accurate statements and information that are necessary to show efficiency and activeness of general policies and commercial processes for upgrading the level of tourist services.

There is especially a shortage in correct information and statements regarding the role the tourism plays in economy in Yemen. There is an increasing development in the role the tourism can undertake with regard to economy, directly and indirectly. This can be seen in generating of added value, creation of job opportunities revenues of international tourism in hard currencies. The contribution of tourism to Yemen's gross domestic product and economic growth has not been felt up until now. That could be attributed to the reality that actual contributions estimated in the national accounts are less than the real contributions of the tourist sector. The reason is that there is no estimation and evaluation of this sector's effect but regarding to contributions of hotels and restaurants, which are one of the components of tourism activities. The report pointed out that by the end of 2005 it was expected that tourist revenues would amount to $225 million. The proportion of the contribution of hotels and restaurants to the GDP ranged 1.58% to 1.34% in the years 2000-2004, i.e. with an annual growth average of 8.6%.

It is known that increase in tourist movement leads to increase in volume of employment inside tourism sector or in sectors related to it. But the seasonal characteristic of tourist action, he great change in work circumstances and non-acquisition of work contracts in many productive units, constitute major restraints precluding obtaining of figures indicating the volume of labor in tourist industry.