Split from South Sudan
After a referendum in January 2011 where 99% of the population of South Sudan voted for independence, Sudan agreed to the separation into two countries. After decades of a north-south civil war which has killed 1.5 million people, it is hoped that this separation can bring peace to the countries. However, conflict is still raging in Abyei and Darfur and there are still ongoing territorial issues and political tensions with South Sudan. A source of tension regarding oil revenues is likely to continue as the majority of oil fields are in South Sudan, but all processing and infrastructure is located in Sudan.
Negative image and travel warnings impact tourism
A number of governments advise against all non-essential travel to Sudan, as well as against all travel to certain regions of the country. The UK government advises against all travel to the Red Sea border with Eritrea, Darfur, Abyei and southern Kordofan. The Canadian government advises against all travel to Sudan, whilst the US and French government advise against travel to border regions with South Sudan. Additionally, ongoing conflict within the Darfur region, combined with an overwhelmingly negative image on the broader global stage, discourage many visitors.
Infrastructure needs 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 nearby. Many of the historical monuments are in need of restoration, as well as lacking guides and trained staff to assist visitors. Whilst roads and access to remote parts of the country have improved in recent years largely as a result of overseas aid and private developers, facilities for visitors also need to be upgraded or established. Sudan faces competition for tourists from many of its neighbours and it will continue to lose out on potential long-term revenues until conditions improve.
Air transportation thriving
Air transportation in Sudan is showing erratic growth over recent years. Flights to and from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries 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 at the border region.
Increased number of visitors to and from Middle East
Benefiting from the growing number of flight connections, inbound and outbound tourism to and from the Middle East is growing. Sudan has long had historical connections to the Arab world, despite its location in Africa, with Arabic being the official language of the country, and Islam being the majority religion. Close business ties and proximity across the Red Sea have connected Sudan and Saudi Arabia, which continues to be the most popular source of inbound visitors. However, arrivals from other GCC countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain are growing, with Qatar also playing a prominent role in peace negotiations regarding the Darfur conflict.
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