15 March 2017

Sudan: Tourism Categorized Under Economic Sector After Decades of Minor Role

Khartoum — Nearly 1000 Travel and Tourism Agencies (TAA) are conducting businesses in Khartoum (the national capital). However only handful of them operates in real tourism activities. The bulk of them conducts activities in ticketing, visa services and regrouping of pilgrims to the holy land.

Chief of Travel & Tourism Agencies Association Ms. Muna Mohamed Abd Allah - highlights that a number of constraints hampered agencies from conducting proper tourism businesses. She summarizes these constraints in the fact that public and economic planners are lacking concept on tourism as real industry. Despite her criticism Abd Allah acknowledges there are good signs of government response to reconsider introduction of procedures that cope with the requirements of international tourism industry. On this regard she cited ministry of foreign affairs and ministry of interior. In addition she also appreciates presidential adviser Awad Al Jaz's efforts resulting in facilitation of contacts with Russian and Chinese tourist companies. A Chinese media team composed of seven members and a group of Russian tourism companies arrived last January in Khartoum whilst Bulgarian T.V team arrived on 20th of February, she said. Those teams arrived to get acquainted with Sudan's tourist attraction sites.

Abd Allah believes that lifting U.S sanctions have encouraged international tourism companies from Germany, Britain, Spain Italy, China and Russia to reconsider cooperation with Sudan.

Red sea state government in particular, according to Abd Allah, has taken the initiative of supporting private tourism agencies' promotional campaigns abroad.

The International companies are feeling relaxed for dealing with Sudan based on the fact banking transaction from now on could be conducted smoothly after lifting of sanctions, as Abd Allah maintains. She said those companies have started talking that Sudan is peaceful and safe place for international investment. In spite of the fact that only handful tourism agencies engaged in tourism activities they managed to achieve considerable success.

AL Mada Company which owns "Shiri for Travel and Tourism" deals with professional tourism.

The company's deputy general manager Ehab Imam Suleiman said they plan to open a resort at Sabaloga's 6th cataract composed of hotel with 75 rooms' capacity providing full board service. The company also plans to extend its tourism business to reach all attraction sites nationwide. Suleiman unveils that three floor-hotel was planned with 36 capacity rooms to be located in Port Sudan, Red Sea State, and a similar hotel will be built in Gedarif, Kassala State, composed of 26 rooms. International restaurant and cafeteria will be attached to the proposed hotels.

Suleiman's believes on tourism investment in Sudan on ground that Sudan is potentially rich and so many attraction areas are still virgin particularly the diving in the Red Sea besides many archeological attractions. He stated that only 300 pyramids were explored in Sudan and more than 3000 others need to be excavated.

The biggest asset Sudan has, he said, is its friendly people and warm hospitality as some tourists said "you can train someone in hotel jobs but can't really teach people how to smile. With Sudanese, they argued, smiling comes natural" and that is a big asset in the tourism business. Compared to African countries Sudan hosts diversified tourism. Tourism in Sudan varies from richness of biological diversity up to archeological heritage. According to ministry of Tourism, Antiquities and Wildlife 12 out of 13 types of mammals found in Africa exist in Sudan addition to about 871 species of birds and about 90 species of reptiles. There are 8 national parks in Sudan, two marine national parks in the Red Sea besides a 750 km - coastal line. Archaeological sites are scattered presenting the ancient times of Kerma and Kush Kingdoms.

A prat from biological diversity and archaeological sites Sudan is a destination to many nationalities worldwide seeking educational and medical services. On this regard Suleiman cited International University of Africa, where hundreds of multinational students admitted annually in the university besides very important persons from some African countries who come for medical treatment in high class Sudanese hospitals.

Manager of Mashanshart Travel and Tourism Agency Midhat Mahir shares with his colleague Suleiman an identical view that Sudan is land of exceptional tourist attractions and place of conducting good tourism business. But he said it needs basic infrastructure such as land roads and railroads besides rehabilitation of national carrier and reconsideration of tourism legislation. For example Dinder National Park, which is the most important wildlife reserve in northern Sudan and designated as a Biosphere Reserve, lacks asphalted roads and an airport. However, Mahir said he believes tourism is a promising business in Sudan and its assets is sustainable compared to oil. It will remain sustainable for hundred thousands of years representing a permanent source of hard currency flow to the hosting country. Mahir said his agency which is active in tourism business has a branch at Wadi Halfa, the only Sudanese crossing point to Egypt. The agency has deals at other outlets with Ethiopia and Eritrea. He said his agency prepares to purchase lands at Bjarawiya, an area near Merowe- inscribed in the UNESCO's World Heritage List, for building motels in a traditional Sudanese model to attract tourists.

Ministry of Tourism records show that in 2015 Sudan received 741000 tourists from different countries and earned US$930m as a result. In 2016 nearly 980 tourists entered the country accounting to US$1 billion earning. The ministry estimated one million tourist is expected to arrive in the country during the current year 2017.

Undersecretary of the ministry Garaham Abdel Gadir attributes this considerable jump in receiving tourists to Sudan participation in foreign exhibitions held recently in Spain, Germany, Moscow, Japan and Britain. He assures that the ministry's plan for the year 2017 focuses on continuity of participation in foreign exhibitions besides local ones. In addition Abdel Gadir said his ministry will be present at regional and international forums arranged for tourism activities. On the points raised by private sector that government is not giving concern to tourism as an important sector Abdel Gadir assuranced that now the government considers tourism a priority. He cited that tourism ministry is now operates as one of the economic sector's ministries whilst instead of service sector ministries. Abdel Gadir acknowledges tourism businesses suffer challenges on in the field of basic infrastructure and overlapping of responsibility between federal government and state governments.

He explains that tourist attraction archeological sites and the nine wildlife parks are scattered across the country's remote areas. They require be equipped with basic infrastructure and other necessary services such as water and electricity.

The ministry of tourism has submitted a plan to ministry of transport to establish roads for linking tourist attraction sites. He said railroad is preferable for tourist because it is cheap and encourages travel to remote areas to see and know more about Sudan and thereby spending more money. For the national carrier, Abdel Gadir said, he hopes to see Sudan airways (Sudanair) operating and supports promotion of tourism after lifting of sanctions. On overlapping of responsibility Abdel Gadir said this challenge is expected to be solved through constitutional reform.

Abdel Gadir stresses that tourism is an industry that bring in hard currency without exporting a product. What you do, he said, is simply that you setup an attractive environment, show hospitality to encourage tourist comes and spends money to know and see your heritage, history, landscape ... ..etc.

However, with Mohamed Abuzaid Mustafa, who won the award of Arab Tourism First Person of the year 2017, at the helm of the ministry tourism industry is bound to thrive.


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