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|November 10th, 2005, 01:24 AM||#21|
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Bahrain; London
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Well here is the response:
ANGRY businessmen yesterday accused the government of crippling the country's tourism industry through bad decision-making.
The country lost "millions" over Ramadan and Eid, because of last-minute restrictions imposed by the Information Ministry's Tourism Affairs, claimed businessmen.
They accused the ministry of buckling to pressure from Islamist MPs to ban hotels from selling alcohol during Ramadan nights.
Some hotels are still under a seven-day ban imposed from the first day of Eid on individual outlets within them which breached the original order.
The accusations came at a meeting attended by Information Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar and Assistant Under-Secretary for Tourism Abdulaziz Al Rafae.
Some hoteliers said that they had no objection to closing for Ramadan, if they had been told in advance what the ministry's policy was going to be.
They said they could have sent their staff away on holiday and used the time for refurbishment.
Dr Abdul Ghaffar accused the local media of waging a campaign against the tourism authorities by printing articles suggesting that tourism had suffered greatly over Eid because of their policies.
Claims by authorities that the country's top hotels were full over Eid were later dismissed as untrue by the Five Star Hotels Executive Committee.
Dr Abdul Ghaffar said figures showed that traffic through the King Fahad Causeway and the Bahrain International Airport was healthy over Eid, indicating that tourists flooded into the country for the holidays.
Businessmen and journalists questioned the statement adding that they didn't show how many of them were Bahrainis returning from trips abroad.
They also accused the ministry of buckling to pressure from Islamist MPs to impose the ban.
One journalist told Dr Abdul Ghaffar that the ministry should not have issued the ban because parliament never passed any law regarding it.
"The parliament cannot pass directives, only laws," he said.
"If no law has been passed by parliament, the government does not have to listen to them."
Dr Abdul Ghaffar said that businessmen should try to become closer to the people of Bahrain.
"You create thousands of jobs, but the people don't know who you are. You need to become closer to them. They voted the MPs in because these are people they have contact with who help them," he said.
Bahrain Hotels Company chief executive Aqeel Raees said that Bahrain had to decide whether it wanted to be a tourist destination or not.
"It has to have a clear vision for the sector and whether it wants it to be a main contributor to the national economy," he said.
One hotel owner, Ahmed Sanad, said that the hotel industry was confused about what the government wanted it to do.
"I read in the newspaper today that the Prime Minister is for what we are saying and now I come here and the Information Minister tells us something completely different. It's as if we have two different governments," he said.
Mr Sanad also accused the chamber and the Information Ministry of not caring enough about small hotels.
"When something happens that affects the five-star hotels, the whole world moves, but no one cares about the owners of smaller hotels," he said.
Businessman Hamid Al Zayani asked Dr Abdul Ghaffar about what was being done with the taxes that the government charges the hotel companies.
"Where does it go? Why don't we see the benefits of it?" he asked.
Dr Abdul Ghaffar admitted that ministry's Tourism Affairs directorate was weak and had insufficient authority and resources to adequately monitor the sector. "It is a very small directorate and cannot meet he requirements of the industry," he said. "When I first came to the ministry, I realised this and made it my first priority to draft a law to establish a tourism council.
"We completed it in the end of May and it has been submitted to parliament and I hope that it is passed as quickly as possible."
BCCI president Khalid Kanoo said that businessmen investing in the tourism industry suffered many problems because there was no tourism body with the authority of a ministry.
"Many investors come to Bahrain to invest in the industry, but they don't know what they are supposed to do," he said
The BCCI issued a statement expressing its extreme regret that the Economic Development Board did not attend the meeting, despite being invited. A representative of the organisation should have been there because it has an important role to play in the development of the tourism industry, said the statement.
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