Minister of Tourism Nabil Hassan Al-Faqih, expressed his hope to operate on realism and the recommendations of London Conference results on Yemen.
Al-Faqih said that the negative aspects on the tourism sector became enforced, and that 50% of the ‘’targeted growth’’ was not achieved.
He stated that anyone coming to Yemen must obtain before hand a visa from the Yemeni embassies and consulates abroad. Below is the interview:
London Conference ended two weeks ago, what do you hope will happen soon? What are your expectations?
We hope to see tangible results in reality. The negative effects on tourism were enforced, and affected a large segment of the community because it is sensitive to security issues. London conference highlighted many issues associated with developing the economic condition in Yemen.
What about Yemen’s aspirations to the other conference on Yemen, scheduled to be held in Riyadh in two weeks?
Riyadh Conference will mainly shed light on economic and development issues, particularly when there are different views on how to deal with commitment issues by donors.
Give us more explanation on the losses in the tourism sector during the last period due to political unrest and terrorism?
Losses are very huge, especially when the rate of the targeted growth was to reach more than 15%; however, only 7% was fulfilled. This is a negative indicator and made hotels usage decline to an alarming point that led to direct losses in the tourism sector, and moved a very large number of jobs to the streets. This aggravates unemployment and the economic situation in Yemen. We are seriously suffering, especially as there is a decline in tourism from Germany and Italy. Many sectors are associated with the tourism sector, whether in hotels sector, the sectors of tourism agencies, transportation, or tourist guides. They were all directly affected by the events in Yemen. We hope to overcome this crisis as soon as possible, so as to ensure the stability of the tourism sector.
What do you think are the main reasons why tourists are reluctant to visit Yemen in the recent period?
The reasons why western tourists are reluctant to visit Yemen is because of strong warnings given by European countries.
These warnings are unfair, which made Yemen directly suffer. Also, the media pictured Yemen similar to some countries which suffer from terrorism for a long time such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yemen is far from this situation. Warnings from western countries have greatly hurt the tourism situation in Yemen.
Have you told European and Western countries that your country is negatively affected by warnings to their national tourists from traveling to Yemen?
We have direct contact with our partners in the tourism market in the European region, and there are public relations that follow-up warnings by European countries. The primary focus in the fight against terrorism is not to let terrorists reach their goals. We shouldn’t prevent the arrival of tourists to Yemen, but stand with Yemen. Yemen is a key partner in the fight against terrorism in the world, so they should be fair in dealing with Yemen through developmental support and not through the reduction of opportunities that support the Yemeni development and economy.
The ministry had ambitions in the field of ‘’tourism investments’’, what has it reached?
There is a negative impact on tourism investment and investment in general, because of the circumstances Yemen passes through. It remains at the minimum. The investment plan in the tourism sector is going as scheduled, and also as was planned by Cabinet of Ministers. Also, the Arab Tourism Investment Forum next year will enable us to show a lot of tourism investment projects to Arab and foreign investors.
Are there any programs so that Yemenis working in the tourism sector don’t risk losing their jobs during this critical period?
There are some procedural steps that were taken by the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Social Affairs on employment, guaranteeing minimum rights for workers in the tourism sector to ensure their stability.
About government’s decision to ban granting visas from Yemeni airports for foreigners coming from abroad. Do you think this decision will affect tourism?
A vision was developed on how to deal with tourist visas and visas related to foreigner’s entry. However, the decision was interpreted improperly. The vision was to prevent granting visas from within the airports, not to ban visas. Facilities were given to certain nationalities to grant entry visas to Yemen, now we have a vision with our brothers in the Interior Ministry to deal with the issue of visas, through the granting of prior visas from our embassies and consulates abroad. Also, we need to develop a mechanism that ensures obtaining visas from the airport. The decision only bans visas at the airport to some nationalities.
What are the nationalities that have been prevented from obtaining visas in the airports?
Most European nationalities and some of the major industrialized countries, but not from Arab nationalities. The European Community was gaining certain privileges, and we felt that there should be a limit.
But the decision of banning visas at airports will affect the number of western tourists coming to Yemen?
It won’t affect the traffic of tourists coming to Yemen, entirely, I emphasize that the decision is not to prevent the entry of these nationalities, but to prevent visas from the airports directly. Visas are granted in embassies and consulates, as is the case in many countries of the world. Me as a Minister, if I want to visit Britain, I must get a visa from the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Sana’a, and not from the airport in Britain.