DUBAI, May 05 (Saba)-Yemen has seen a 6.9 per cent increase in foreign tourists in the first quarter of this year, a Yemeni official said on Wednesday in an interview with Arabian Business.
Deputy Minister for Tourism Development Omar Babelgheth unveiled also his country is planning to build five large resorts and up to 44 hotels across Yemen over the next few years.
In 2009, 1.1 million tourists visited Yemen, with by far most of them from the Gulf and the remainder from Europe, the US and South East Asia,
Babelgheth said they had achieved year-on-year growth of 0.5 percent in visitor numbers last year, while revenue in 2009 was up 1.9 percent from US$ 886 million in 2008 to US$ 903 million.
He is aiming for four to five percent growth in tourist visits in 2010 and already this year first quarter figures are up 6.9 percent year-on-year, which Babelgheth said was down to the increase in cruise and yachting tourists.
“Yemen has many tourism attraction factors, it is very rich in its culture, civilisation and heritage” Babelgheith said at the Arabian Travel Market.
The Yemeni official said that the aim was to attract 1.5 million tourists a year by 2015 and bring in revenues of US$2 billion.
“Unfortunately, there is a travel warning alert from the European Union but we still receive tourists from Europe”, Babelgheith was quoted by the National daily.
“The media had exaggerated the situation in Yemen. It’s very challenging for us but we have to work hard to clear the image”.
The tourism board was participating in 13 travel exhibitions around the world and conducted roadshows in five major European cities last year.
Yemen has established the Yemen Tourism Development Company and has already signed a deal with the International Finance Corporation to develop five resorts along the coast.
“We have signed an agreement with IFC to invest in five leading projects, two of them on the Red Sea and three of them on the Arabian Sea,” said Babelgheth, who added that the five star resorts are due to open in 2015 and will cost between US$ 150 and US$250 million each to develop.
He also added that the tourism authorities are looking to generate US$ 78 million from investors for 44 three star hotel sites across the country. So far the majority of investors have come from Qatar and Libya.
The tourism sector makes up around 2.5 to three percent of Yemen’s economy and Babelgheth is convinced that the industry can weather the negative publicity from terrorism and piracy.
“The negative media, personally I don’t believe in hearing I want to experience myself and then to judge. Hearing about Yemen is not enough, you have to come and see. We have expats working in Yemen in oil and gas fields and other sectors and mainly they are from Europe and America. If they don’t feel safe you think that they would stay there?” he added.
On Tuesday, Dubai's Deputy Ruler, Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, officially inaugurated the 17th Arabian Travel Market as the Middle East showed strong signs of embracing its role of leading the global tourism industry into a full recovery.
With all of the region's tourism chiefs in attendance, the show - which runs until 7th May at Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre - started in an optimistic mood, as Middle East tourism bodies and representatives showcased their diverse range of products to the international community.