Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013
Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Tourism numbers down

Amira El-Naqeeb examines the prospects for tourist inflow this winter season

Al-Ahram Weekly

As 2012 draws to a close, Egypt’s tourism industry continues to suffer from the overall political instability and lack of security, with Magdi Selim, head of internal tourism at the Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA), saying that he had never felt just how “fragile” the tourism industry was as he had over the past year.

With stern travel warnings coming from numerous countries to their citizens about visiting Egypt, led by the UK, the number of inbound tourists to Egypt has declined significantly over the year.  Cairo was severely affected by this year’s events with a hotel occupancy rate of just 18 to 20 per cent.

Luxor and Aswan have been struggling with 18 per cent occupancy rates. “This time of year should be high season for Upper Egypt, so you can imagine how it feels to walk into the temple at Luxor and find no tourists there,” Selim said.

Though there had been signs that the tourism industry might recover in time for the high season, hopes were dashed because of the violence that broke out following the 22 November constitutional declaration and the debate surrounding the draft constitution.

Before that, an increase of some 18 per cent in tourist numbers had been detected over last year, though now the situation has returned to what it was beforehand. According to Selim, some of the growth had been explained by an increase in inbound tourism from countries also suffering from political instability. “It is the first time we have seen so many tourists from Palestine and Libya in September and October,” he said.

The Red Sea governorate has been one of the least affected by the declining numbers of tourists. Last week, Hurghada was still receiving almost daily charter flights, bringing with them up to 11,000 tourists. As a result, hotels in Hurghada are posting up to 80 per cent occupancy rates.

Most tourists coming to the Red Sea are now Russians, Germans, Italians, Poles and Czechs, a new market for the region. According to Ahmed Al-Dou, head of the Red Sea office of the ETA, German tourism officials had supported the Egyptian industry during a recent visit to inaugurate the FTI cruise line, one of Europe’s largest operators, saying that travel warnings would not be issued to German tourists wishing to visit Egypt.

It is FTI cruises’ first winter season in Egypt, and the tours will continue until 15 March, passing through the Red Sea, South Sinai, and Luxor.

In South Sinai, the situation is different, since according to Ahmed Fouad, financial director for Sun Rise Cruises & Resorts, tourists often do not differentiate between South and North Sinai. As a result, if there are security problems in North Sinai, the whole of the Peninsula suffers.

His company had had 50 per cent reservations at 12 resorts in Sharm El-Sheikh and the Red Sea for the Christmas and New Year period up until the first week in December. However, after the recent events in North Sinai, they had seen 10 per cent cancellations. 

Selim told Al-Ahram Weekly that he had hoped to see Egypt welcome 10 or 11 million tourists this year, but recent “incidents shook the ground beneath our feet”. Egypt saw one of its highest-ever numbers of inbound tourists in 2010, with 14.7 million tourists, bringing with them some $12.5 billion in income.

In 2011, in the wake of the 25 January Revolution, that number had fallen to 8.5 million, bringing $8 billion in income.

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