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Yemen Tourism Suffers:
|Terrorism Badly Affecting Tourism|
Written By: Moneer Al-Omari
Article Date: February 18, 2008
Earlier this week, tens of tourists cancelled their trips to Yemen, as France warned its citizens against traveling to Yemen. This has caused a new fear in the Yemeni tourism industry as tourism is feared to have a bad year in the country.
Experts assure that there has not been a unified definition to terrorism and stress it is a not a new phenomenon because it is a means of violence practiced by individual or groups for specific ends; however, it has not been taken its recent shape. It has become world phenomenon and it has expanded markedly everywhere.
Very few countries have been free from of terrorist operations and they leave bad effects at all levels, socially, economically, politically, etc. These terrorist attacks are always stirred by ideological motivations.
Among the most major terrorist attacks come September 11, 2001 in America, targeting American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, attacking USS Cole in Aden Seaport, attacking French Oil Tanker Limburg, etc. However, the effects of such operations on rich and powerful countries could not be as destructive as in developing countries.
Upon Yemen's unification in 1990, economic pointers started to achieve some sort of progress prompted by the relative security and stability in the first two years. However, these things did not remain so for too long because problems started to prop up and the country let in a destructive war for about 70 days.
During the early 1990s, some terrorist operations occurred in Mareb and targeted oil pipeline and these operations were politically motivated. Still, the terrorist and extremist groups started to gain a momentum over the same period prompted by the return of hundreds of Yemeni Afghans.
Most terrorist operations in Yemen in the nineties focused more kidnapping tourists and foreigners working for some international companies or diplomatic missions' affiliates, assassinating thinkers, politicians and political activists, targeting oil facilities and foreign interests. However, in the last five years, terrorist operations in Yemen have grown in tactic as weapons and explosions have been used to kill tourists coming to the country.
Tourism and terrorism
Despite all the challenges, there had been a steady increase of tourists to Yemen especially during the mid 1990s. A major reason for the increase in tourism is that the country enjoys many characteristics that qualify it to be the target of all sorts of tourists. The country enjoys fine weather, varied land structure and diversified cultures.
However, the number of tourists started to decrease remarkably following Hitat events in December 1998 wherein Aden-Abyan Islamic Army kidnapped a group of British tourists and the matter involved the interfere of army and security forces and operation ended in killing four tourists and injuring several others.
Before that, several tourists were kidnapped in different eastern governorates particularly in Mareb, however, all of them were released intact. Very often, locals practiced kidnapping to force certain concessions or to achieve some ends on the government's side.
Following Abyan's terrorist incident, the number of tourist showed a steep decrease to become 58,379 instead of 87,627 recorded in the previous year, according to a study by Tahir Al-Salehi.
Meanwhile, there had been expansion in setting the tourism infrastructure over the period 1996 to 1998 wherein the number of tourists rose from 74,476 to 87,627.
Terrorism's economic effects
The terrorist attacks against tourists have helped decrease the occupational capacities of hotels, restaurants, tourism and travel agencies and caused thousands of youth to become jobless.
Likewise, the revenues of tourism sector have come down and also caused insurance installments on ships heading to Yemeni ports to swell at 300 percent, particularly after attacking USS Cole and French Tanker Limburg.
Terrorist operations have caused investments considering investing in Yemen to turn to other countries and this disallowed the country from great opportunities.
Further, countries issue warnings to their citizens not to visit the county or to invest their money considering be a dangerous place with high risk and some projects under construction or implementation have been suspended.
Timed with September 11 attacks targeting America, foreign people started to be hostile against Muslims in general and Arabs in particular after they were widely welcomed everywhere in Europe and America. This caused a lot of tourists from Arab countries, mainly from Gulf, to stop visiting these countries.
They started to seek other destinations including Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. The number of Gulf tourists visiting the country rose markedly especially during the years 2002 to 2006. Over 200,000 tourists visited Ibb during summer season of 2005 and the infrastructure has witnessed wide expansion including tourist hotels of different stars, restaurants, etc.
The most visited places and provinces have been Ibb, Aden, Hadramout, Taizís Al-Khawkhah area, etc. However, the numbers of tourists started to decrease by 2006 as authorities imposed strict measures on foreignersí travel and stays, especially when the number of tourist marriage victims mounted to thousands.
Unlike the past, now authorities demand any Gulf or foreign tourist or person wishing to marry a Yemeni lady to obtain the consent of their country embassies together with registering marriage by concerned authorities including Interior and Justice Ministries.
Since 2001, the number of foreign tourists has seen a steep decrease especially when foreign countries issued warnings to their citizens advising them not to visit Yemen because it is a high risk country. In return, Yemeni authorities have tried best to advertise the country as a favored tourist destination and for that end established a separate ministry for tourism after it was joined with culture in one ministry.
Despite all these efforts, the official campaigns achieved little success, mainly because of the different terrorist attacks the country witnessed and still there is no statistics about the number of tourists visiting the country over the period 2002 to 2007.
Right from 2003, tourism started to boom once again and the number of foreign tourists increased; however, the terrorist attack against Spanish tourists in Marebís Belquis Shrine in June 2007 caused a shock to Yemeni authorities and prompted foreign countries exporting tourists to the country to renew their warnings advising them not to visit Yemen. Few months later, exactly on December of the same year, terrorists directed a knock out strike to countryís tourism.