Ministry of Tourism receives Hill+Knowlton recommendations on handling Bahariya incident

Abdel Razek Al-Shuwekhi
5 Min Read

The Ministry of Tourism has received a Hill+Knowlton Strategies report on how to handle the fallout from the mistaken killings of 12 people in the Bahariya Oasis, according to ministry sources.

An official said, in a phone call from London, that the report was sent to the Ministry of Tourism on Monday evening, suggesting ways of dealing with the crisis. This follows the contradictory statements made by the ministry, Egyptian Travel Agents Association (ETAA), and the Tourist Guides Syndicate following the incident.

The source added: “The situation will be handled through arguing that the company already obtained the security permits and approvals to visit desert areas; however, the company went to an area which the security and sovereign bodies prohibit access to, which made them suspicious [that the group was] a terrorist group, and consequently it was necessary to attack them. The security forces were chasing terrorist elements in the area.”

He said that the report suggested a number of recommendations for the Ministry of Tourism, the most important of which is the necessity to coordinate with the Egyptian Tourism Federation and the ETAA. Additionally, there is a necessity for an investigation into the accident to be conducted, and to announce the results at a conference to which the international media will be invited.

The report said: “There must be an Egyptian delegation waiting for the bodies in Mexico, to express condolences to the Mexican people.”

He added that the Ministry of Tourism has already asked its external offices in the tourism exporting markets to follow up on the published news about the incident, and to send reports about their content. This would, in particular, cover Western European markets, which have expressed the most concern regarding the accident.

The official admitted that the incident would negatively affect the inflows of tourists to Egypt during the next winter season. However, he added, it must be dealt with quickly so the government can reduce this, saying that they need to benefit from the Ministry of Tourism’s experiences in the ’90s.

The Ministry of Tourism contracted with the company JWT to promote Egypt’s tourism for a period of three years, at a cost of $68m. The campaign was scheduled to begin by October.

A Ministry of Tourism  official said the company is coordinating with his ministry on the promotional campaign, in light of the parliamentary elections in October.

He added there will be two scenarios. The first it to postpone the campaign until 2016; the second would be to begin as scheduled in October, and exploit the parliamentary elections. This would encourage a shift away from the negative image of Egypt, as it implements the third part of the roadmap towards completing the country’s democratic process.

He explained that postponing the campaign until the beginning of next year will be negative, as it will lose the promotion for the next winter season. According to the official, however, a positive aspect would be Egypt’s clean image in the promotion campaign that could be effective in tourism exporting countries. He added that not postponing the campaign will send a message that Egypt is turning into a democratic system, and that the “forces of evil” are trying during to hinder this.

Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu arrived in Cairo on Tuesday, to follow up on the developments following the mistaken killings of the Mexican tourists.

Egypt’s Ministry of Interior said that 12 people, who also included Egyptians, were killed and 10 others wounded accidentally when security forces opened fire on four four-wheel drive cars near the Bahariya in the Western Desert.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies is a leading international communications consultancy company, providing services to customers on the local, regional, and international level. The company headquarters in New York, and has 79 offices in 44 countries, in addition to a far-reaching network of partners.

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