Western European residents will receive promotional material from Yemen this September as the country tries to convince more tourists to visit.
The Yemeni Tourist Promotion Council has decided to start its promotional campaign in France, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom next month before approaching people living in the neighboring Gulf countries, local Yemeni media has reported.
Yemen is on the one hand known for its historic buildings in the capital ‘San’aa and spectacular nature but it is also one of the poorest countries in the world. Tourism provides a vital source of foreign capital for Yemen, but tourist kidnappings are not unheard of. In March 2009, four South Korean tourists were killed in an explosion while posing for a photo in a region known as a haven to rebel groups.
According to the Yemeni Ministry of Tourism 1.1 million tourists visited Yemen in 2009, of those 70 percent came from the Gulf.
Mohamed Shaif, director of Yamanat Tours in ‘San’aa told The Media Line that the Yemeni government has made efforts to attract more tourists, “but it’s not enough,” he explained.
“The most important thing is security, if the tourists feel safe they will come,” he said. “This is what’s important, not only promotion but security.”
Ibrahim Al-Attab, managing director of Yemen Explorers Com in the capital said that tourism was up, but added that he was worried not everyone could afford travel to Yemen with the economic downturn.
“The local tourism is increasing,” Al-Attab told The Media Line. “Before people only came for one day, but now they stay overnight because there are good hotels and good facilities.”
“One problem was restaurants that have public toilets, but now there is a new directive that all restaurants have to provide separate toilets for men and women,” Al-Attab said. “This is very important because you want to feel safe when you travel.”
Yemen was recently ranked 18th in the Failed States Index, put together by the American non-governmental organization Fund for Peace.
Fund for Peace defines a failed state as one where the government has lost physical control of its territory or does not have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Failed states also tend to have an inability to provide reasonable public services.
The central government in ‘San’aa has been fighting with a militant group belonging to the Shi’ite offshoot Al-Houthi rebels in the northeast of the country since 2004.
In addition, the government is fighting a secessionist movement in the south, which accuses the government of unfairly diverting the oil wealth from that region. The movement is also calling for a return to the two-state division, in place before Yemen gained independence in 1967.
For the past two years, there have been increasing fears that Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula is taking advantage of Yemen’s unstable political situation to strengthen its presence in the region.
The U.S. State Department currently has a travel warning in place for Yemen.
“The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities. The Department recommends that American citizens defer non-essential travel to Yemen.”