A state of famine was declared in parts of Somalia by the United Nations in the summer of 2011 and continued over the course of 2012 and 2013, the first official declaration of such an event in the 21st century. Already hampered by insecurity and violence in the country, famine is compounding the misery of the local population. Under such conditions the development of travel and tourism in Somalia has been put on hold until the basic needs of its citizens are met.
Somalia can in many ways be characterised as a failed country, with no effective government or authority in charge throughout the country since civil war started in 1991. No positive steps were taken in 2013. There have been several attempts to establish a central government but with two autonomous states in the north of the country, Somaliland and Puntland, as well as the Islamic Al-Shabaab in charge in much of the south, there has been little success. In August 2011, government troops in combination with 9,000 soldiers from the African Union Mission in Somalia entered Mogadishu after Al-Shabaab withdrew from the capital. Entering 2013 the city experienced a respite from violent clashes although Al-Shabaab has declared that its move was not a retreat but a change of tactics and that it is still present outside the capital.
Somalia is currently considered a very dangerous country to visit. As a result, the governments of most developed nations advise their citizens to avoid all travel to the country. Travel and tourism is difficult to develop in such an environment, particularly when the risk of danger is high, as indicated by kidnappings that occurred over the review period. It is also virtually impossible to obtain travel insurance for Somalia, leaving tourists vulnerable and heavily reliant on external assistance, which itself is difficult to rely upon.
Travel and tourism infrastructure in Somalia was virtually non-existent in 2013. There is no national tourism board, hotels are few and land transportation across the country is fraught with danger. There is tourism potential in Somalia as, according to trade sources, the country benefits from beautiful beaches, including diving sites on the Red Sea coast, and a wide array of flora and fauna. However, in 2013, the country remained too dangerous a location and thus it was unable to attract the amount of foreign investment necessary to develop travel and tourism.
Somaliland is officially an autonomous part of Somalia but it has been operating as a de facto independent country since 1991. Whilst it occasionally suffers from bouts of violence, it is generally considered to be a lot more secure than the rest of the country and it has its own government and president. As a result, there are tourists who visit Somaliland and there are major hotels located in the capital city Hargeisa. In addition, towards the end of the review period two tour operators started to operate there. The Kuwait Foundation, a charitable organisation based in Kuwait, donated US$12 million to the renovation and upgrade of the airport and port in Berbera, which is located on the Somaliland coast.
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