Is Egypt destroying its tourism industry?
As clashes continue across Egypt, with more and more injuries and deaths being seen over the past three weeks since the two-year anniversary of the January 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, the tourism sector is being driven into more and more hardship. Tour operators across the country tell Bikyanews.com that since January 25, reservations have been cancelled and fewer foreigners are putting Egypt on their travel destination plans.
It’s hard time for a sector that had been booming before January 25, 2011, but with the rise in police violence and clashes taking place on the front door of 5-star hotels in Cairo, travelers are quickly looking elsewhere for travel plans.
“It’s a struggle for all of us to try and maintain,” tour manager Islam Siddiq told Bikyanews.com, adding that “many of my friends who had been operating large groups before the revolution don’t have any work and are now working as waiters just to earn some money for their families.”
Now, the government has passed new legislation that makes it nearly impossible for foreigners to own land in the Sinai Peninsula, including hotel operators, which could put a stop to development on Egypt’s Red Sea coast.
The new regulations mean any foreign owned property in the country will be forced to be sold within 6 months and many are crying foul, saying President Mohamed Morsi is leading the country into tourism and travel destruction. This, the same president from the Muslim Brotherhood, who repeatedly said he would push for a return of foreigners into the country, but 6 months on from his ascension to the country’s top job, he appears to be backtracking on promises.
Add to this the continued police violence directed at protesters in the country, Egypt’s tourism sector is nearly non-existent. The Brotherhood, ironically, had previously argued it would not implement any policies to detract from visitors coming to the country.
Egypt’s Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou reported that the country saw an increase of 17 percent the number of tourists during 2012 and a 13 percent income increase from the visitors. Still, the announcement comes as fears continue that the tourism sector is not back at 100 percent since the January 2011 uprising and near monthly violent clashes in the country.
That was before January 25, 2013, when widespread violence broke out and the 5-star Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Cairo was the scene of intense fighting.
He did say that the statistics show that the sector is recovering after nearly two years of downturn as foreigners looked elsewhere for their travels. Reuters news agency reported that 11.5 million tourists arrived in Egypt in 2012, generating some $9.9 billion.
Despite the solid showing, that is still three million visitors shy of the pre-revolution figures of 2012.
The minister said he was pleased with the numbers, which will provide some support for Egypt’s economy currently struggling to recover from the impact of the uprising and is seeking a lifeline from the International Monetary Fund.
Adding to the worries has been the rise of the Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood in the country.
Tourism had accounted for some 10 percent of the country’s economy.
The Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) told Bikyanews.com in a statement in June that they “hope to build a new united Egypt” and have “no plans to affect the current situation” when it comes to tourism.
Still, worries abound, among both Egyptians and foreigners, over what the future for Egypt will bring.