Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou appeared in a YouTube video on 22 August reaching out to the travel industry abroad to help assist governments to improve Egypt’s tourism in the coming period, following the recent wave of violent clashes and civil unrest.
While placing emphasis on maintaining tourism partnerships abroad, Zaazou asked foreign travel agencies to push their governments to lift their negative travel advisories for Egypt since the national curfew is not imposed in many beach tourist sites.
“The violence that you may have seen in your television screens, I assure you that level of violence is dwindling down very fast. The security and safety is now currently even better by the day, by the hour,” Zaazou said.
Violent clashes turned deadly when the military decided to disperse two major Muslim Brotherhood camps in Cairo on 14 August, leaving more than 1,000 people killed and hundreds injured. Since then, travel advisories were issued by many governments abroad deterring potential tourists coming to Egypt from visiting the country.
“Because of some unfortunate coverage from the media and some of the negative travel advisories, I believe these advisories should be reconsidered and lifted by these relative governments,” he said.
“In spite of the fact that at the moment there is a curfew in Egypt in many places, it does not include the Red Sea area or Sharm el-Sheikh or the southern Sinai area,” Zaazou said. “That is a reflection that the government is comfortable for any guest to come and enjoy his or her time… sound and safe.”
The tourism minister stated that the ministry is keen on maintaining contact with travel operators and agencies to provide them with updates regarding the situation in Egypt.
The tourism sector, accounting for 11.3% of the country’s GDP, has been negatively affected by frequent protests and violence since the 2011 revolution, leading to a fall in foreign currency reserves.
In February, 19 tourists died in a hot air balloon crash near the ancient town of Luxor, a popular tourist destination. The accident prompted the government to temporarily ban balloon rides.
Following the Luxor incident, the World Economic Forum Travel and Competitiveness Index listed Egypt last in terms of security and safety last March. The report, which included 140 countries, ranked Egypt behind Pakistan, Yemen and Chad.
In April, former President Mohamed Morsi decided to promote tourism between Egypt and Iran. However, Iranian tourists faced restrictions pertaining to visiting specific religious sites in Egypt.
Despite these incidents, the ministry of tourism reported in May that tourism revenues grew by 14% in 2012.
The number of tourists plummeted to 9.5 million in 2011 compared to 2010 where the number of tourists recorded was 14 million, according to a report published by the state’s statistical agency Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistic (CAPMAS).
Experts claim that the ministry’s figures are “questionable” due to the frequent street protests and sexual harassment stories recounted by foreigners.