Militancy hurts Egypt’s tourism
In what could be a major blow to Egypt’s lifeline tourism business, three European tourists were attacked with knives in a Red Sea resort of Hurghada on January 8.
The following day, two policemen were shot dead near Cairo in an attack claimed by Islamic State militants.
The two strikes come at a time when Egypt is doing everything it could to revive the industry which was badly harmed in a major assault in Sinai Peninsula’s Sharm el Sheikh in less than three months.
A Russian jetliner flying from a resort in the popular tourism destination was allegedly downed by IS militants killing all 224 people onboard on October 31. Subsequently, Russia suspended all flights to and from Egypt.
Britain issued travel advisories and banned all UK airlines from operating flights from Sharm el Sheikh.
Following the incident, the number of tourists visiting the area fell by more than 80 per cent.
The tourism sector has been very vital to Egypt’s economy and is a great source of hard currency. It brings more than 1.5 million jobs directly and indirectly.
The government expect the tourist footfalls will grow by 10 to 15 per cent next year from the expected 8.9m visitors in 2015. It anticipates the tourism revenues last year will be something between $6 billion and $7bn. In 2014, 9.9m tourists visited the country and their contribution to the economy stood at $7.2bn.
The industry has been ravaged for several years by a series of militant attacks and political instability.
The country saw major attacks targeting tourists in 1997 and 2005. While 62 people including 58 foreign visitors were killed in what was called the Luxor massacre of 1997, a bombing in Sharm el Sheikh took 88 lives. But the resilience of holidaymakers came to Egypt’s rescue 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 and 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.
Tourism minister Hisham Zaazou last month confirmed media reports that a Saudi businessman was in talks with Egyptian authorities over a $4bn tourism resort in Sharm el-Sheikh.
But it is yet to be to known what will happen to the large-scale investment after the latest militant attack.
The most important and immediate task for the government will be to restore the confidence of tourists and investors alike.
“The welfare of the tourists visiting Egypt is of the greatest importance to us and will continue to be so. No stone will be left unturned to ensure their security,” Zaazou said in a statement emailed to AMEinfo.
He has vowed to step up security in the country, adding, “Over the coming days, we will announce even greater security measures to safeguard all tourists visiting Egypt.”