Former chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Federation (ETF) Elhamy El-Zayat expects tourism revenues will decline by about 40% by December.
In an interview with Daily News Egypt, El-Zayat stated that this decline is due to the continuing suspension of Russian and British trips to Sharm El-Sheikh since October 2015.
What are your expectations for 2016’s tourism revenues due to the suspension of Russian and British trips to Egypt?
I predict that tourism revenues will decline to about $3.5bn in 2016, compared to the $6.1bn generated in 2015, due to the continued suspension of Russian flights to all of Egypt’s airports as well as the suspension of British flights to Sharm El-Sheikh since October 2015.
Russian tourism represents about 30% of annual tourist arrivals to Egypt, while British flights represent about 10%.
The influx of Russian tourists fell to 2.4 million last year, compared to 3.1 million during 2014.The influx of British inbound tourists also fell by almost 4%.
Although British companies are about to complete the evaluation process of security measures at Egyptian airports,the United Kingdom will not lift the travel ban imposed on Egypt before November because the British airlines have rerouted their destinations.
What are the consequences of such a large decline?
Honestly, the Egyptian tourism sector has faced consecutive crises over the last five years, which have negatively affected the quality of services.
Moreover, there are many workers who will be laid off or leave their jobs due to the decline in the sector.We cannot prevent all of these losses if we stand aside and let the disaster continue.
The sector now needs strongmen who work for the interest of this country to restore the tourism sector to its previous rate. We do not need those who only care about personal interests, as the sector is facing its fiercest crisis in the Russian plane crash.
The tourism sector has found itself in an unenviable position, paying for international foreign policy relations with Egypt.
We should also halt all hotel construction to avoid more losses.
How do you think the decision of an Italian tourist association to suspend its trips to Egypt after the murder of the Italian researcher Giulio Regeni will affect the tourism sector?
Firstly, the Egyptian authorities are still investigating the incident, but this Italian tourist association’s decision is very serious. However, it does not hold a large share of the Italian tourism market to Egypt.
This association may be looking for fame but we should be careful that other Italian associations might follow in its footsteps.
How has Regeni’s murder affected the influx of Italian tourist to Egypt?
Italy is one of the largest European supporters of Egypt. But the incident has caused significant damage to the tourism sector as the influx of Italian tourists declined since the crisis. Actually, Italian tourism has nearly ceased all together.
Marsa Alam and the Northern Coast are the tourism areas most affected by the crisis, as they previously attracted the most Italian tourists.
As I said, there is a danger that other European countries may follow the Italian association’s position, as Rome is an active member in the European Union.
What do you think of the Tourism Activation Authority’s decision to resume its promotional campaign in the Italian market?
I think this campaign should be postponed until the situation calms down. To initiate promotional activities now will be like ploughing the sea. They might backfire and increase the negative image of Egypt.
The Italian public is not ready at the moment. We should choose the right time to send our message to the Italian tourism market.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced recently that he would not allow Russian flights to Egypt to resume until the two countries sign a security agreement. How do you see these remarks?
The Egyptian government is determined to face the deficiencies of the sector. There are already procedures to establish a national company that will manage the security system at airports. The Ministry of Tourism, as well as other security agencies, will participate in the formation of that company.
The tourism fund will finance the company, and it may cooperate with British security company Control Risks.
What is the company’s capital investment and when will it be launched?
I cannot tell you about the company’s capital, but it will not be managed for profit. It will depend on the security devices provided by the Egyptian Airports Company.
This company’s formation will be announced and promoted soon to show the Egyptian government’s attention to airport security.
Will the tourism sector recover to its previous figures following the completion of these procedures?
The tourism sector will recover, of course, but there are political issues in the crisis. I can tell you that Egypt may not be completely responsible for the crisis. Russia’s decision to suspend travel was not based only on the Egyptian incident, as they may also want to protect the ruble against other currencies.
The same thing applies to the British market, which will not resume flights to Egypt before December 2016. So, this year will be an extension of the current crisis, which has lasted for more than five years now.
How do you see the recent Thomas Cook decision on the extension of the travel ban to Egypt?
The decision had a negative impact on the influx of British tourists. However, the travel ban is only imposed on Sharm El-Sheikh so Hurghada still receives a limited number of UK tourists.
This decision has also contributed to the reduction of German flights to Egypt by approximately 40% even though Germany did not impose a travel ban on flights to Egypt.