Kidnappings hit Egyptian tourism sector

Published February 14th, 2012 - 07:29 GMT
Egypt tourism
Egypt tourism

Egyptian tourism experts have indicated that the general tourism situation in the country is witnessing a significant deterioration.  They estimated that the industry is facing $5 billion in losses due to repeated kidnappings of tourists in the southern Sinai by groups of Bedouin, with many tourists needing to flee to avoid capture.
The experts agree that tourism as a bleak future in light of the decline in summer tourism, a lack of clarity of vision for the 2013 winter season, continuing insecurity, and calls for sabotage, all of which obscure the light at the end of the tunnel.  In the meantime, security experts are insisting on the need to ensure the security of tourist groups if Egypt is to escape this crisis that has damaged its reputation internationally.
According to statements by Magdy Selim, head of domestic tourism in the Ministry of Tourism’s “Elaph,” tourism is continuing to deteriorate, especially due to the increasing abduction of foreign tourists.  In particular, the industry is negatively affected by the repeat kidnapping of three Korean tourists, following the kidnapping of Americans in the same area of the southern Sinai.
He pointed out that the southern Sinai, and especially Sharm el-Sheikh, are considered one of the most attractive places for tourism due to the stable security situation over the past years.  Therefore, the crisis between the Bedouin and the government and security agencies must be treated quickly in order to resolve outstanding problems and stop the kidnapping of tourists.  Selim believes that a third kidnapping incident involving foreign visitors would be a fatal blow to the tourism industry, and a declaration of its disappearance from Egypt.
Selim also noted that the percentage of tourists arriving in the areas of Luxor and Aswan ranged between 20-23 percent, while 54 percent arrive in the southern Sinai, including Sharm el-Sheikh and Taba.  The most serious problem is the cancellation of bookings for tour operators and hotels on the part of foreign delegations as a result of increased incidents of kidnapping and theft in the commercial market in South Sinai.  Matters are made worse by calls for civil disobedience and strikes, which causes tourists additional fear for their lives if they remain in Egypt.
Selim believes that it is difficult to foresee improvement in tourism in the near future as it depends on many factors including stability of the country, an end to lawlessness in the street, and the return of the police force to as it was before the revolution.  Other countries, aware of what is happening in Egypt, are warning their nationals against visiting, which thereby increases the negative impact on domestic tourism.  Some gradual improvement may be expected following the presidential election and the advent of a civilian president working to apply the law to everyone, which would give peace of mind to tourists.
Adel Abdel-Razek, a member of the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Commerce, said that tourism is in a steady decline, and that the problem is not the occupancy rates for hotels and companies, but rather that the crisis lies in the weak demand by tourists to visit Egypt.  If the current situation continues, the demand will fall to zero so that no foreign tourists will visit the country.  He noted that occupancy rates were 40 percent in Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, 15 percent in greater Cairo, 8 percent in Luxor, and 0 percent in Aswan.  The number of vehicles operating in Aswan fell to only five out of 271, with many workers having no work to do, and hotels losing billions of dollars over the past six months.

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