Tourism in Egypt has suffered a great deal due to what many call its second revolution, which toppled Hosni Mubarak and led to the rise of Mohammed Morsi. After the revolution militants moved into the Sinai Peninsula, kidnapped tourists and killed Egyptian security personnel. There have also been numerous protests in Cairo and other cities within the country. Analysts claim that these protests are scaring away tourists and that the recent overthrow of Morsi’s government by the military has led to intensified attacks by Islamist groups. Back in 2010 before the revolution, about 14.5 million tourists visited the country but that number plummeted to 9.5 million tourists last year. Additionally, a majority of tourists, who are brave enough to visit, choose to avoid Cairo and other cultural sites to go instead to the beach resorts. Tourism experts in the country say that this ties the money the tourists spend to only a few areas in the Middle Eastern nation.
Egypt tourism officials responded to this decline in tourism by launching a number of marketing campaigns aimed at persuading the world that the country was safe for tourists. They even tried to promote a spiritual retreat in a Cairo. However, these attempts at attracting business from major European countries and the United States have not been successful. As a result, the country’s tourism officials are now focusing on Arab tourists and visitors from other countries like Latvia.
However, the Egyptian regime is yet to deal with the rising security risks in the country. For instance Sinai-based jihadists are believed to have planted a roadside bomb that hit a tourist bus in mid-February this year. Three South Korean tourists and the driver were killed in the incident. Britain sent a security services team to the Egyptian tourist resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to assess whether it was vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Berlin adjusted its travel advice and many German tourists in Egyptian resorts flew back home.
Though many Egyptians are hopeful that the newly elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will restore order, there those who are skeptical that this will bring any immediate relief. Al-Sisi recently promised to tackle terrorism and deal with insecurity in his inaugural speech from the Itihadiya Palace. He said that he will not tolerate violence and that defeating terrorism is his top priority.
However, experts have warned that if he does not deliver in the next one year he may end up facing the same revolt his predecessors had to endure. Critics still feel that the divisions created by the Egyptian revolution are the cause of the violence and could take awhile to heal. They also fear that the president may not tolerate dissent, which may lead to more demonstrations and religious conflicts. In addition, there are security analysts who are of the view that jihadists may increase their attacks to undermine el-Sisi’s administration and paralyze the tourism industry in Egypt. Though he has promised to build 26 new tourist resorts and eight new airport sites, political observers are concerned that this may not be enough to restore the economy.
In the meantime, there are tourists who have chosen to ignore travel warnings and found accommodations at five-star hotels at friendlier prices. They also enjoy uninhibited access to the Pyramids in Giza and other Egyptian historical sites. Large tourist operators like Tui and Thomas Cook still provide package tours in Egypt.
By Michael Obunga