Year of Tourism to bring in half a million
YEMEN expects tourist and visitor numbers to the country to hit almost half a million by the end of this year, and 800,000 by 2010, according to the country’s tourism promotion board.
The year 2006 has been declared the year of tourism, and accordingly, has planned to promote and invest in tourism, improve infrastructural services and implement security plans.
Revenues from the tourism sector increased to $214 million dollars in 2004 compared to $139 million in 2003. Over the first six months of 2005, tourism returns amounted to $160 million, an amount spent by 1,59,410 visitors. The country is also working on easier immigration procedures at entry points.
The country’s Tourism Development Authority (TDA) says there are 72 tourism projects in Yemen, costing an estimated 63 billion rials ($323 million). These new projects will provide 60,000 new jobs for Yemeni citizens.
The TDA signed six agreements on setting up six tourist sites on the coastlines of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. Among these are new tourist and industrial investment opportunities on Yemen’s western shores, including 50 chalets, 50 tourist housing units, and a diving center, 20 kilometers from Khokhah beach in the province of Al-Hodeidah would be opened shortly. Tourist villages are also being planned at Al-Mulk beach, 35 km away from the Khokhah district.
Yemen’s desert, coastal areas and islands offer natural settings for eco-tours and parts of the capital, Sana’a, have been inhabited for over 3000 years. Also being developed is the island of Socotra, an emerging haven for eco-tourism in the Indian Ocean, currently only attracting 400 visitors a year. The attraction is its wild, empty beaches, mountain views and unique wildlife, with a third of the 900 plant species found on the island being indigenous.
Among the new source markets Yemen is looking to is Japan, where the country took part in the Aichi Exposition last year, where more than 30,000 people visited the Yemeni wing.
The country’s airline, meanwhile, Yemenia Airways, has extended its services as of this winter, flying daily to Cairo, eleven times weekly to Dubai and non-stop flights to European destinations such as Rome, London and Paris. There will also be non-stop flights to Kuwait, Bahrain, Dar As Salaam, and Djibouti, as well as ten flights to Jeddah per week. The airline currently flies to 33 internal and external destinations and is studying possible extensions to its network to include new flights to China, Thailand, Turkey and regions in Africa.
To service these new routes, the airline has opened negotiations with Boeing for the purchase of ten 787 passenger aircraft to reinforce its current fleet that covers 30 destinations around the globe. The new aircraft will enable Yemenia to meet an expected increase in demand for flights over the coming years.
Several international airlines are also expected to partner with Yemenia domestically within the country as of 2007.
With the proposed Arab airline alliance, Arabesk, Yemenia will be able to reach some 500 destinations across the globe.
Yemen is home to several quality hotels, including two five-star Sheraton properties, the Sheraton Sana’a and the Sheraton Gold Mohur Hotel & Resort, Aden. While the Aden Mercure Hotel was inaugurated in February last year, the newest hotel in the country is the Mövenpick Hotel Sana’a. The Swiss chain already operates the Movenpick Hotel Aden, and is confident that its latest opening will prove profitable. Sana’a is also home to the five-star Taj Sheba and several four-star properties. A new alternative in Aden is the Golden Tulip Aden, situated five minutes from the airport in the diplomatic area of Khormaksar.
Supporting the travel and tourism industry is the National Hotel and Tourism Institute (NAHOTI), which was opened in Sana’a in September 2005 to meet the industry’s technical and educational needs. Supported by the European Union as part of its co-operation with Yemen’s tourism sector, the institute aims to provide the country with the necessary human resources through its specialized training. The institute will offer courses in reception, hotel management, food and drinks catering, tourist guidance, tourist agencies and travel agencies. Two sister institutes are also on the agenda, in Taiz and in Aden.