Egypt's tourist-traders need to know what's what
The fears over possible changes to governmental tourism policies under a new leadership that subscribes to a more fundamentalist interpretation of Islam have caused the tourism industry to expect all sorts of problems.
Owing to the political instability associated with poor security in the wake of the January 25 revolution a decline in tourists over the past 18 months has led to the collapse of many tour companies.
According to the International Tourism Organisation's 2011 report Egypt has left the club of the 20 top tourism countries, which it only joined in 2010. The report showed that Egypt moved down from rank 18 to 26 by virtue of a drop of around five million tourists in just one year. In 2010, the figure was 14.1 million, whereas in 2011 Egypt received only 9.5 million tourists.
The emergence of a politicised Islamist trend in the wake of the revolution gave rise to unprecedented arguments about certain conservative traditions, which tourists would have to observe when visiting Egypt. Mohammed Morsi's electoral programme mentioned tourism in terms of cultural and safari tourism, encouraging the influx of Asian tourists and upgrading the areas adjacent to nature reserves. But those working in the tourism industry say they need detailed information on the State's future approach, particularly where controversial issues like beach tourism are concerned.
"So far there has been nothing that would reassure the tourism sector," said Hani el-Shaer, the deputy chairman of the Hotels Chamber.
He thinks that Morsi has to be much more specific, and outline his tourism plans more clearly, to demonstrate that they are not tainted by Muslim Brotherhood views.
"The message to the tourism industry in Morsi's speech earlier this week implies nothing," tourism expert Hossam el-Akawi told Al-Shorouq Arabic daily. He explained that the international tourism market required a clear message, not lip service or general statements made during a public address. He expected the president to pay much attention to a sector with a workforce of four million people. He pointed out that the matter was of utmost importance, considering that contracts for the winter season were usually completed in the summer. "Vagueness would only benefit our competitors such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel."
Unofficial statements previously released by Islamist figures or Muslim Brotherhood members caused much insecurity in the tourism sector. They were also negatively received in the West. El-Akawi added that these statements had not been officially refuted or affirmed.
Tourism is apparently not the only sector waiting for a sign to go ahead. Certain issues connected to the tourism industry, such as security, traffic and economy, need to be tackled equally promptly.
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