Political unrest shuts down hotels in Yemen
To address the crisis, the Yemen Hotel Union (YHU) held a board meeting on Wednesday, April 18, under the slogan "Tourism in Yemen depends on stability of the security and political situation."
"Last year's conflict affected the hotel industry in Yemen badly. Some development plans have been achieved, but slowly. I hope everything gets better soon," said Alwan Al-Shaibani, chairman of the YHU.
“At the moment security and stability are greatly needed to boost the tourism industry,” said Al-Shaibani.
"Many hotels shut down because of last year's conflict. But if tourists start to visit Yemen again, these hotels will reopen. All we need in Yemen is security and stability so that tourists feel safe enough to come here," he added.
Bankruptcy and employee lay-offs
Many Yemeni employees in hotels lost their jobs because of last year's conflict. Operations in hotels decreased from 70 to five percent due to the clashes that took place in different parts of Yemen last year.
"We faced countless problems because of the political turmoil. We had to pay workers' salaries for five months while they were doing nothing because there was no work to be done. Moreover, we had to rent apartments to house foreign workers," said Awad Al-Waheshi, manager of Al-Bustan Hotel in Sana'a.
"We had losses of $1.4 million. This affected the hotel's budget extremely negatively," he added.
The growth rate of the hotel industry declined to zero, particularly at the time of armed clashes last year, according to Mustafa Nasr, a Yemeni economic analyst.
Several hotels stop working
"Several hotels, including five-star hotels like the Ramada Hadda Hotel, went bankrupt and closed down," Nasr said.
Nasr pointed out that although there aren't specific statistics regarding lost jobs, he estimates the number at several tens of thousands. Taxi drivers, restaurant owners, and vendors were deeply affected too.
Obstacles face hotel owners
The YHU's activities aimed at improving the hotel industry in Yemen over the last year were discussed in the meeting.
"The circumstances over the last two decades didn't allow the YHU to build good tourism infrastructure in Yemen," said Al-Shaibani.
"We are disappointed because of unachievable promises by successive governments in creating a good and safe climate for the tourism industry," he added.
"All the Yemeni governments tried to make tourism a marginal activity because of their inability to foster an atmosphere conducive to steady tourism, like giving good loans for hotels, or reducing the high taxes which hotels owners pay," he added.
The Ministry of Tourism currently expends considerable resources to support hotels in Yemen in overcoming the difficult circumstances stemming from last year's conflict, according to Mutahar Taqi, undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism.
As for the future, Al-Shaibani pointed out that the Ministry of Tourism has made no fixed plans because of the continued uncertainty about the security situation in Yemen.
"Security is critical for increasing national and foreign investments in Yemen. The government's policy must serve to attract more investment and more tourists to Yemen," Al-Shaibani concluded.