Egypt's Chamber of Hotels meet to discuss sexual harrasment
The Chamber of Hotels will meet this week to study Ministry of Tourism resolutions to confront sexual harassment and assault in the tourism sector, according to Deputy Chairman of the Chamber of Hotels, Hany Al-Shaer.
Al-Shaer did not specify the date of the meeting, but said that “harassment has harmed the reputation of Egyptian tourism in the recent past”.
The Minister of Health recently issued a decision to put an end to gender mixing in health clubs and spa facilities.
According to Al-Shaer, banning such mixing will negatively impact Egypt’s tourism reputation as some patrons prefer mixed-gender settings.
Al-Shaer said the issue is not one of issuing decisions, but instead, a change must take place among the culture of workers in order to address the root cause of the problem.
Incidents of sexual assault have harmed Egypt’s tourism reputation recently, said head of the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Tourism, Ilhamy Zayat.
The sports minister’s decision to separate sexes in sports clubs and spas was not issued by a specialist and coordination should have taken place with Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou and the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Tourism, Zayat said.
Zayat believes that the resolution should pertain to spas and not sports clubs within hotels.
Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou issued Ministerial Decision 398/2013 in order to combat the phenomenon of harassment in tourism centres.
By way of the resolution, the minister prohibited men from working inside health clubs frequented by women at hotel facilities. Facilities in violation of the provision, as well as any facilities in which tourists suffered attempts at sexual assault, would be closed.
Al-Shaer said that employing foreigners instead of Egyptians to work in spas would negatively impact Egyptian labour.
Last week, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb issued decision 1461/2014 to form a committee charged with studying the causes behind the spread of sexual harassment and assault.
The resolution provided for the formation of a committee headed by Mehleb, with Zaazou taking his place in Mehleb’s absence. Committee members will include the ministers of Interior, Local development, Religious Endowment, Education, Youth and Sports, Health, Housing, Social Solidarity, Culture, Higher Education, and Justice.
The committee will also include representatives from Al-Azhar, the Coptic Church, the National Council for Women, and the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood. Various specialists and experts will also be invited to attend committee meetings.
“The legislator should have stipulated in the Prime Minister’s decision that the public prosecutor and police travel to the location of the incident of assault, as tourists are afraid of visiting to tourist police stations in Egypt,” Al-Shaer said.
Al-Shaer attributed the need to bring investigators to the location of the incident to tourists’ fears of the presence of criminals at police stations.
The Ministry of Tourism has issued several decisions to relevant hotel authorities represented by rebuking the institution, sending a warning, then revoking the facility’s license if such incidents prove recurring.
The ministry requested that hotels both receive and administer training schemes for their workers, to help address the issue, including courses on how to interact with tourists, according to a Ministry statement.
The ministry also obliged Egypt’s tourism attorney investigate any claims issued by tourists and confirm that all legal measures are taken for any incident reported by tourists. It said medical examinations must also be conducted for the victim.
The ministry also required hotels to obtain a statement through which the tourist pledges, before leaving the hotel, not to take any legal measures upon returning to their country. This will particularly be the case if legal action is taken by Egypt, or if the victim refuses to take action based on their request in the presence of their embassy’s representative.
“Hotels must scrutinise their workers’ information and biographical data, and the Hotels Chamber must have information for all workers for whom honour or honesty violations have been issued,” said Hesham Aly, Chair of the Tourism Investors Association in South Sinai.
The Ministry of Tourism has also requested hotels conduct psychological tests for workers and submit quarterly reports on workers’ behaviour, following-up on their performance, according to a statement issued by the ministry.