Sunday, 10 October 2010

One million tourists visited Yemen in 2009, official

Source: Yemen’s official news agency, Saba ,By Mahmoud Assamiee
SANA'A-Executive Director of Tourism Promotion Council Fatima Al-Huraibi has said the tourist sector has been greatly affected by terrorist attacks that distort Yemen's image outside the country.

These attacks caused many tourists to avoid coming to the country after warnings issued by foreign embassies to their citizens.
Al-Shurfa website published an interview with Al-Huraibi who spoke about government's efforts in improving Yemen's image abroad and promoting for the tourist sector in Yemen.

What are the main responsibilities of the council?
We are promoting for one product called Yemen which has an age covers the history of humanity but our efforts are faced by opposing campaigns and wild media campaigns aiming at distorting Yemen's image.

How do you face these campaigns?

The council exerts extensive efforts from several forms like hosting journalists from Arab and non-Arab countries, making tourist programs inside Yemen to reflect the positive image of the country as they got successful experience through visiting many different places and found security stability in general.

Recently, we hosted many artists from Franc, England and Italy within Sana'a Summer Festival. They spent a month in Yemen and nothing bad happened to them. So that they returned to their countries with positive impression about Yemen and its tourist and natural places.

What is your way in marketing a tourist product of Yemen?

We depend on the international media and TV channels, international newspapers in targeted places to attract tourists in Europe, the United States and Asia depending on tourist map.

We also participate in international tourist exhibitions. We annually participate in 13 international exhibitions for tourist promotion.

What about tourist influx to Yemen?

The number of tourists who visited Yemen during 2009 was more than million tourist; half of them were from Europe. Besides, statistics show that the number of tourists coming to Yemen increased by 6 percent in the first quarter of this year in comparison to the same period in 2009 despite negative campaigns and terrorist operations occurred in this period.

How do you deal with warnings issued by embassies to their citizens not come to Yemen?

The most dangerous thing harms tourism in Yemen is these warnings which resulted in great losses in tourist sector. We in Yemen send delegation frequently from Yemen to foreign ministries of these countries to clarify tourist and security situations in the country.
For example we used to receive great numbers of German tourists but these warnings limited deeply the numbers of these tourists so that we a delegation from Yemen would head to German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The delegation includes a number of affected persons.

What is the importance of security in improving tourist sector?

Security is very important to improve tourist sector in Yemen as security and tourism are one face to a coin. Security problems and media negative campaigns have defamed Yemen as tourist destination. Tourism has been affected badly which led to the closure of great number of tourist companies and hotels in some cities for the deterioration of their income to the degree that they could not pay the salaries of their employees. Even antique seller in some tourist areas has been affected because he no longer finds tourists to sell his products to.

How does the state deal with tourist sector in critical conditions?

Unfortunately, the state does not support the tourist sector in critical conditions and in times when tourist number coming to Yemen decreases. In Egypt, for example, when Al-Aqsor terrorist took place there, the country interfered and exempted tourist facilities from tax and other service fees because these facilities provide work opportunities to great number who support families. Contrary in Yemen, we find that service fees increase in difficult conditions and there is no government's interference to save tourist facilities when there is weak tourist activity.

From your opinion, what is hindering improving tourist work in Yemen?

In fact, referring the improvement of tourist sector to local authority has curb the improvement in this sector because its revenues go to local authority that only cares on citizens' services and collecting money. Hence, tourism must be run by the central authority like oil because tourism's revenues are lasting and that recovering tourist sector is a recover to the whole economy.

What is the role of the private sector in improving tourist sector's infrastructure?
Tourist sector is partner in development and has contributed in constructing many tourist resorts and hotels. This October, a regional tourist conference will be held here with participation of investors from Gulf countries. The conference aims at helping recover of tourist sector and this will reflect positively on Yemen's development.

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