By Doaa Farid
Egypt’s tourism rate has decreased by 80% since 14 August, following violence from the dispersal of sit-ins held by supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi, said Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou on Sunday.
In a televised interview on CBC, Zaazou said the tourism rate in July and the first half of August had fallen 45% normal level, and the value of the losses from July until now amounts to approximately $1bn.
Twelve countries have lifted their travel warnings on Egypt, with Russia set to do so “within hours”, according to Zaazou. “Germany, the United Kingdom, Holland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Sweden and Norway are among the countries that lifted the travel alerts,” he said, noting that the first flight from Denmark would arrive on Friday.
“We didn’t expect such an immediate response from Denmark,” he added.
“We have waited until there were signs of security in the streets, and then we started to visit the countries to explain the situation and convince them to lift the travel alerts,” he said, noting that Egypt received delegations from Russia and Germany in the beginning of September to investigate the security situation in the Red Sea areas.
Meanwhile, British tourism company Thomas Cook announced on 18 September that it would resume tours to Egypt starting from the end of September, according to state-run Ahram Online.
According to Zaazou, the average spending per tourist has fallen from $85 to $64 per day, and Egypt received 11.5m tourists in 2012. However, he said he expects the crisis will ease soon.
With 70% of tourism traffic coming from Europe and 20% from Gulf countries, Zaazou said the ministry had “decided to focus our efforts to restore those two main sources of tourism and create a positive image.”
The minister denied in his interview that Turkish tourism companies operating in Egypt have transferred cancelled bookings to Turkey. “Turkish tourism companies have been operating in Egypt for 17 years, and returning Egyptian tourism to normal rates is in their interest to benefit their economy.”
Zaazou noted that tourism traffic from Gulf countries has decreased but “many bookings are expected after Eid Al-Adha,” adding that they have agreed with the Ministry of Aviation to allow direct flights between Jeddah and Riyadh, and Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurgada.
In an attempt to create awareness of the situation in Egypt, Zaazou said that there would be webcams fixed in touristic places to stream live images on the internet with the assistance of Ministry of Telecommunication, so that tourists can check the situation for themselves. “As of now there are five webcams placed in Red Sea area”.
He also said that there will be compensations for those who are affected by tourism slump.
The governments of Germany, Russia, France, Spain, Sweden and Italy warned travel agencies to stop selling holiday packages to Egypt amid fears of violence after 14 August. Also some European travel agencies cancelled their trips to Egypt.