Aden’s future uncertain now all tourists are gone

Published on 8 October 2012 in Report
Ashraf Al-Muraqab (author), Ashraf Al-Muraqab (photographer)

Ashraf Al-Muraqab


Ashraf Al-Muraqab

A beach in Aden once frequented by both foreign and domestic tourists now sees very little activity.  Most blame the questionable security situation.

A beach in Aden once frequented by both foreign and domestic tourists now sees very little activity. Most blame the questionable security situation.

Nowadays, the streets and beaches of Aden are empty. Shops are closed; houses are empty; and trash is everywhere. Even restaurants—previously known for their busy, crowded atmospheres—are closed now. Hotels and beaches in Aden reflect the overwhelming disappointment in the city after years of prosperity.

Tourism in Yemen is quickly deteriorating. The internal tourism movement has decreased in Aden, a port city in the south of Yemen once controlled by the British. The slump is happening just ahead of the approaching Sacrifice Eid holiday due to the current shakey situation in the region and the country.

The difference between Aden three years ago and now is obvious., Ibrahim Al-Noairah, a taxi driver in Aden, said.

Yaseen Al-Tamimi, a consultant for the tourism minister, said this year hotel and furnished flats’ reservations are down 60 percent from previous years. He said Aden is suffering from a real problem due to the sharp decline in tourism, leaving many hotels unable to pay bills and forcing them to shudown operations.

Al-Tamimi said based on a study conducted by the ministry, about one million national and international tourists visited Aden in 2008. They were unable to conduct a study for 2010, but based on current reservations, this number pales in comparision, largely due to the political impasse.

Najeeb Al-Ghail, a receptionist at a hotel in Aden, said hotels and furnished flats used to be booked far in advance of the Eid holidays, but this year, hotels are suffering as a result of the decrease.

Last year, protests and activities organized in Aden by the Southern Movement (Harak) dissuaded tourists from vacationing in the beach town. Therefore, visitors deviate from visiting Aden and instead are traveling to other governorates such as Hodeida, Al-Mahweet, Hadramout and Al-Mahra.

As a result of this loss in business, hotels and furnished flat owners complain about the heavy losses they sustained due to the exorbitant bills they pay to the state even as tourism is remarkably declining. They call on the government to reconsider the taxes they pay so that they meet the losses they sustained the security vacuum has created.

Tawfeeq Al-Khameri, head of the Arab Tourism Company, said Yemen’s tourism  was affected negatively due to the deteriorating political situation since the uprisings began in 2010.

Al-Khameri said — via his website — the tourism sector sustained more than $1 billion in losses since 2009. He also said Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti investors stopped implementing new investment projects, estimated at $700 million, until further notice.

Al-Khameri criticized the government for not paying attention to the obstacles investors have faced since 2010, causing substantial losses in Yemen’s economy.

A recent study conducted by Yemeni Economics professor, Yusef Saeed agrees the tourism sector in Yemen has sustained heavy losses the past few years. This forced many travel agencies into bankrupcy and led to lay-offs across the board.

The same study reported that the tourism sector lost approximately $10 billion in the last decade, leading to the loss of 700,000 jobs and reducing the annual profit of hotels and the transportation companies to 50 percent.

“The presence of youth protestors in squares in three main districts blocked several main roads, caused traffic jams in streets and increased our suffering,” Al-Noairah said. “Many taxi drivers turned to do other things, particularly due to oil prices hikes.”

“Some people, originally from Sana’a, were working as taxi drivers in Aden, but the incidents that happened in Aden during the few past months forced them to leave Aden to look for other work in Sana’a,” he added.

Mansour Al-Magharem, a cafeteria owner on the Abyan’s Coast, said, “Work stopped entirely here. The money we make nowadays doesn’t meet what we spent. In the past, the income was ten times the money we spend.”

He went on to say, “Many people lost their jobs while many restaurants closed down due to the lack of the dire services such as electricity and also due to the low number of customers and visitors."