yemen: touristenindustrie en de economische crisis

VPRO Digitaal ,

We legden verslaggevers van Metropolis vragen voor over de economische crisis, woede en verzet. Mogib Hassan, de Metropolis verslaggever uit Jemen vertelt over de hotelsector in Jemen en hoe deze wordt geraakt door de crisis aan de hand van het verhaal van het Al- Hajjarah hotel.

"The economic crisis definitely had its impact at least on the tourist industry. Most of the traditional hotels in the old city of Sana'a and elsewhere in Yemen are empty, dusty, and with no life in them. The same with tourist agencies - they have no business, only frustration and anger, and of course they blame that on the economic crisis.

The hotels that attract tourists are the ones run in a traditional Yemeni way. The food in those hotels is home made by the women. Yet those women never meet the hotel guests, so tourists are dealing with the men only though behind the curtains women are doing most of the work. Every evening after dinner the hotels have a band performing Yemeni music and dance. Which is special since in Yemen you hardly can find public concerts and performances, almost never, unless they are organized privately.

Those kind of hotels and restaurants are run by families that are somehow considered outcasts. It is a question of social status, and they are viewed as low class, so as a result people do not marry into those families and do not have many dealings with them. However as a result they have a monopoly in running hotels and guest houses.
Interestingly most of those outcast families do not welcome Yemenis as clients, even when their business is doing badly as this year, due to the economic crisis. Their reasoning for not taking Yemenis as clients is that  "we do not want to serve people that look down on us, even if that means closing our business down".

The Story: Al- Hajjarah Tourist Hotel and restaurant

It's a family enterprise that started in a small way more than 25 years ago, and now its quite a big business in the mountains south-west of Sana'a, which managed to build an excellent reputation.

When I  visited this hotel and I was impressed. It's important to note that generally Yemeni customer service is one of the worst I have experienced, and I have traveled the world. For example, when you are served, they do not even bother to look at your face, they never say thanks or welcome, etc, and when you speak to them, they do not even take you seriously as a client.
However Al-Hajjarah hotel proved the opposite. I asked the boss, "how come you treat your clients differently?"  He answered "because they are different themselves, we know what they expect, so we have done our best to reach their standards, though keeping the Yemeni flavor" He adds " to the point of organizing a wedding party for newly married couples that visit us, we make sure the bride and the groom are dressed in a Yemeni costume, we sing Yemeni wedding songs and we dance." He also emphasizes "we do not charge anything extra for our entertainments, all we want is to make sure that our clients have a good time when they are with us."

The effect of the Economical Crisis on the Business.

The owner of the hotel says "since the economic crisis took place, more or less at the same time as the latest unrest in Yemen started, most of the time our hotel is deserted, with no tourists at all. For example we had more than 2000 bookings cancelled lately, mainly by Europeans."  He added "I just do not know why, to be honest I am not even sure what international economic crisis means."

"Well, maybe the unrest in Yemen and kidnapping of foreigners in Yemen is the reason for the slow-down of your business?" I asked. "That cannot be true, because the political unrest in Yemen has been there since 2004, and kidnapping of tourists started in the 90's, but we have never experienced such a death to our business, it's really hard to survive this way, it's good that I do not have to pay salaries, because it is all family staff. Recently we started expanding the building, but as a result of this so called economic crisis we cannot even finish the project."