Sudan splits from South Sudan
After a referendum held in January 2011 saw 99% of the population of South Sudan vote for independence from Sudan, the government of Sudan agreed to its separation into two countries. After decades of a north-south civil war which has resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million people, it is hoped that this separation can bring peace to the two countries. However, conflict is still raging in the regions of Abyei and Darfur and there are still ongoing territorial issues and political tensions between Sudan and South Sudan. One major source of tension is oil revenues and this is likely to continue as the majority of the country’s oil fields are in South Sudan, but all of the processing and refining facilities and related infrastructure is located in Sudan.
Travel warnings have a negative impact on travel and tourism
A number of governments have advised against all non-essential travel to Sudan and against all travel to certain regions of the country. The UK government, for instance, advises against all travel to the country’s Red Sea border with Eritrea and the regions of Darfur, Abyei and southern Kordofan. The Canadian government advises against all travel to Sudan, whilst the US and French governments advise against travel to border regions with South Sudan. In addition, the ongoing conflict within the Darfur region, combined with the overwhelmingly negative image of Sudan on the broader global stage, continue to discourage many potential visitors.
Massive travel and tourism growth potential
There are a wide range of activities and tourist sites in Sudan, a country which offers everything from tours of the Nile and virgin rainforests to wildlife safaris and big game parks. There is also the possibility to go diving in the Red Sea and visit important archaeological sites in the north of Sudan. In addition, the huge territory of Sudan and incredible diversity of its landscape mean that there is a wealth of scenery, including the rolling desert dunes of the north and the lush rainforests on its southern borders as Africa’s largest country is also its most diverse. From a cultural perspective, Sudan has more than 500 different tribes, each with its own dialect, traditions, customs and dances.
Sudan’s travel and tourism infrastructure requires investment
The travel and tourism infrastructure in Sudan is in need of investment. There is a shortage of hotels, particularly outside the capital Khartoum, with many key tourist attractions completely lacking suitable accommodation in close proximity. Many of the country’s historical monuments are in need of restoration, while the lack of guides and trained staff to assist visitors is another issue. Whilst roads and access to remote parts of the country have improved in recent years, largely as a result of overseas aid and the activities of private developers, facilities for visitors also need to be established or upgraded. Sudan faces competition for inbound tourists from many of its neighbours and it will continue to lose out on potential long-term travel and tourism revenues until conditions in the country improve for inbound tourists.
Air transportation flying high
Flights between Sudan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are increasing in number, largely due to the growing number of low-cost carriers operating in those nations. Sudanese airlines are banned from operating in Europe and, as a result, most flights to Europe are provided by airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airlines via hubs in the Middle East. Flights to and from South Sudan are also popular, as land transportation between the two countries remains dangerous, especially in the border region.
Increasing numbers of visitors arriving in Sudan from the Middle East
Due to the growing number of flight connections between Sudan and the Middle East, inbound tourism from people living in the Middle East is growing in Sudan, as is outbound travel from Sudan to the Middle East. Sudan has longstanding historical connections with the Arab world, despite its location in Africa, with Arabic being the official language of the country and Islam the majority religion. Close business ties and its proximity across the Red Sea have meant that Sudan has long been connected with Saudi Arabia, which remains to be the major source country for inbound arrivals in Sudan. However, arrivals from other GCC countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain are growing in Sudan, with Qatar also playing a prominent role in peace negotiations regarding the Darfur conflict.
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