Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Feature: Al-Qaida attacks, separatist protests undermine tourism in Yemen

Source: Xinhua

Tourism in Yemen has dramatically declined, especially in southern troubled provinces, where government troops engaged in deadly clashes with growing armed separatist groups since 2007 and separately fighting the resurgent al-Qaida wing which escalated its attacks recently, officials told Xinhua.

The violent clashes and protests rallies in the south deterred about a half million of local and foreign tourists from visiting the country's most attractive port city Aden during the week-long holiday on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr that marked the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, according to official statistics issued by the Yemeni Ministry of Tourism.

Yemen has been facing growing trouble in the south since 2007. The separatist Southern Movement demands to secede southern Yemen from the north over complaining of discrimination against the south, home for most of the country's oil installations.

Since late last year, some armed separatist groups have sporadically targeted local tourists traveling from northern provinces, looting their vehicles and shooting dead the ones who tried o resist.

Deputy director of the provincial Tourism Office in Aden, Jaafar Abu Bakr, said around 87,000 local tourists were registered in Aden during the week-long Eid al-Fitr this year, compared to 600,000 tourists in the same holiday of 2009.

Aidroos Obeid, owner and manager of Mualla Hotel in Aden, said that tourism business "deteriorated because of the activities of the armed, separatist protests and the unstable security situation in Yemen in general," adding that tourists, especially the local tourists were "reluctant" to visit Aden because of the risks of being intercepted by separatist gunmen in the highway linking southern troubled provinces of al-Dhalee and Lahj, the key strongholds of the separatist groups.

"Income of the hotel now is not enough to pay a monthly bill of the electricity service," he said.
Moreover, local officials and observers also attributed the decline in the number of tourists to the recent series of al-Qaida attacks that hit the south and southeast parts of the country since the beginning of this year.

"Tourism is a sensitive industry that easily affected by negative events that caused fear among tourists," said Yemen's deputy tourism minister Abduljabar Saeed.

He said that "the volatile security and political situations in Yemen have been warned by Western countries, which caused the number of foreign tourists decreasing dramatically, especially after foreign tourism companies lifted the travel insurance recently."

The deputy minister also pointed out that the recession in tourism "caused the closure of some tourist facilities," and " laying off several hundred workers."

"Violence, trouble that the country faces from battling al- Qaida regional wing, southern separatist groups in the south as well as Shiite rebellion in the north are key factors that may lead the suspension of the investment and development process in the country," the minister added.

Marseille Gerlache, a German tourist visited Yemen late last year, said "Yemen is a beautiful, wonderful country, but it needs more efforts to reform its security and diplomatic system."

"In Germany, for example, the German Foreign Ministry fostered special tourist sections in its embassies abroad for promoting the tourism in Germany although it already is a well-known country at the international level, " she said.

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