Final nail in the coffin of Egypt’s tourism?
The pharaohs are apparently not helping Egypt, as is evident from the worsening tourism sector in the country.
The famous pyramids in the North African country have gone down on holidaymakers’ wish lists after a spate of militant attacks and political instability. In addition, the increasing threat of the Islamic State is rubbing salt in the sector’s wounds.
British Airways on Tuesday (June 22) extended its suspension of flights to the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh indefinitely, becoming the first major UK airline to cancel departures for the crucial winter season in Egypt.
This may not be the final nail in the coffin of the country’s once cash cow industry, but it may help spark off similar announcements from other major aircrafts worldwide soon.
British and Russian governments banned their airlines from flying to Sinai Peninsula’s Sharm al-Sheikh, a popular winter destination, because of concerns about security at the local airport after the suspected bombing of a Russian passenger jet in October 2015 killed all 224 people on board.
Egypt witnessed attacks targeting tourists earlier this year, which triggered a massive decline in the arrivals of visitors to the country.
Three European tourists were attacked with knives at the Red Sea resort of Hurghada on January 8 and, the following day, two policemen were shot dead near Cairo in an attack claimed by Islamic State militants.
The number of tourists fell by 40 percent in the first quarter of 2016, compared with last year.
Other British airlines, such as Monarch and EasyJet, had previously said they hoped to restart flights to Sharm al-Sheikh for the winter season beginning in October, although that would be dependent on advice from the UK government, which has so far not changed.
The Arab country’s flag carrier EgyptAir’s Airbus A320 flight MS804, en route to Cairo from Paris, disappeared from radar before crashing into the Mediterranean on May 19, presumably killing all 66 onboard. Investigators are still in the process of examining the black box flight recorders of the plane to ascertain the cause of the disaster.
In March, a man wearing a fake suicide belt hijacked an EgyptAir plane and diverted it to Cyprus.
Egypt will have to work ten times harder to revive its tourism industry, Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed said last month.
But it looks like that will not be enough. The country will have to launch all-out efforts to achieve its dream of attracting 12 million tourists back by the end of 2017.
The government will have to beef up efforts to contain militancy, which has been ravaging the tourism sector for several years.
The country has seen major attacks targeting tourists since the 1990s. In what was called the Luxor massacre of 1997, 62 people including 58 foreign visitors were killed and a bombing in Sharm el Sheikh took 88 lives in 2005. However, the resilience of holidaymakers came to Egypt’s rescue in the following years and the tourism industry recovered rapidly.
In 2010, the industry brought smiles to the face of Egyptians with the numbers of international tourists clocking 14.7m, resulting in a revenue of $13.6bn. But the Arab revolution that followed the next year erased all the gains and severely damaged the industry. In 2013, the revenue from tourism was just $6.7bn.
At this moment, one can only echo the Egyptian tourism minister’s statement: “We work hard to recuperate and every day will be a better day.”
(With inputs from Reuters)