Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Winter worries

Political events may take their toll on the tourism industry’s efforts to secure a booming winter season, reports Ahmed Kotb

Al-Ahram Weekly

The tourism industry had been counting on this winter season to make up for its losses since the revolution, hoping to attract a number of tourists close to that of 2010. But that hope has been dampened following clashes in Tahrir Square and the surrounding area, as well as protests against the recent presidential constitutional declaration. 2010 is considered the best year for the industry in terms of the number of tourists, which reached around 14 million. That figure fell to 10.5 million in 2011.

The number of tourists visiting Egypt has been fluctuating since the 25 January Revolution due to political instability and lack of security, but experts believe violent protests are considered the biggest threat to continuous efforts to restore Egypt’s position as a top tourist destination.

One direct effect of the current instability is the cancellation of an important conference that was supposed to bring together in Egypt tour operators from several European countries that had reported a poor flow of tourists to Egypt lately. The conference was supposed to highlight the efforts that the Egyptian government has made to restore full security in tourist destinations.

“Any efforts we took to ensure a safe tourism atmosphere are hindered by violent clashes that erupt in Tahrir Square or other parts of Egypt,” said Nagui Erian, deputy head of the Chamber of Hotel Facilities. He added that many foreign governments and international entities that used to back Egypt up as a safe destination have stopped their support as a result of the current instabilities.

“It is hard to determine the short term losses resulting from the cancellations to reservations before two weeks, but I am sure they will be great,” Erian stated.

There was a great deal of optimism inside the industry about the winter season, but now, Erian added, no one can predict the fate of tourism in the coming months.

“The industry has been flourishing since October and the flow of tourists has been very satisfying, but current events might affect the surge,” said Ezzat Abdel-Ghaffar, regional internal audit manager at Travco Group.

Abdel-Ghaffar agrees with Erian that it is hard to determine the look of the winter season now because reservations are made weeks — sometimes days — before tourists arrive to Egypt. Reservations used to be made for the winter season months before it starts.

However, Abdel-Ghaffar believes there is still hope to save the winter season.

Occupancy rates in Sharm El-Sheikh’s hotels, according to Abdel-Ghaffar, range around 70-75 per cent. In Hurghada and Marsa Alam, occupancy is within 80-85 per cent. “These are the best rates since January 2011,” he said.

Egypt’s minister of tourism, Hisham Zazou, announced this week that the number of tourists who visited Egypt since the beginning of this year until October 2012 is 9.5 million, an increase of more than six per cent compared to last year.

Abdel-Ghaffar said that hotels affiliated to his company reported almost no cancellations to reservations for the New Year vacation. “I believe that tour operators and tourists did not make cancellations because they are confident that the instabilities will be contained shortly,” he pointed out.

“If clashes are over by next week, everything will come back to normal and the winter season might be better than that of 2010,” Abdel-Ghaffar said.

Zazou also announced this week that tourism is not affected by the events in Tahrir Square because tourist destinations are away from the clashes, adding that he expects the number of tourists visiting Egypt reach 11.6 million by the end of 2012.

He also stated that his ministry is preparing an online channel called “Egypt now”, through which there will be a live broadcast from Egypt’s tourist sites to let the world see moment-by-moment how these sites are fully secured.

Governor of Luxor Ezzat Saad said Monday during a press conference that tourist flow in the governorate is increasing gradually and is about to return to normal rates.

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