Unrest deals blow to Egypt hospitality sector



THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published — Friday 23 August 2013

Last update 2 October 2013 1:20 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

Heshmat Youssef used to make a decent living sailing foreign tourists down Egypt’s Nile River. Since political unrest flared, business has dried up faster than water in the desert.
Riots and killings that spiked after the Aug. 14 crackdown against followers of ousted President Muhammad Mursi have delivered a severe blow to Egypt’s tourism industry, which until recently accounted for more than 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and nearly 20 percent of its foreign currency revenues.
The chairman of the Egyptian Airports Company, Gad El-Karim Nasr, said arrivals at Egyptian airports have dropped by more than 40 percent from Sunday through Tuesday compared to the same time the previous week. He said that in the same time-frame, 13,000 tourists, mostly from Germany and Italy, have left the Red Sea resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada — with only 3,000 new arrivals.
With governments in the US and Europe advising their citizens to avoid Egypt, the impact threatens the livelihood of the one in eight Egyptians who earn their money from tourism.
“We want to live in stability and for tourism to come back,” said Youssef, who hasn’t seen holidaymakers in weeks. “Let us eat already. We are extremely tired.”
The latest shock occurred just as Egypt’s tourism industry, which injected more than $10 billion into the economy last year, was slowly recovering from the blow suffered from the 2011 uprising against ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
That uprising had already prompted some US operators to pull out of Egypt. But the drop in US visitors, who favor ancient monuments like the Pyramids outside Cairo and the tombs and temples of the Nile Valley, did not affect the resilient European market.
Every year millions of sun-starved Europeans swarm the Red Sea beaches far from the chaos of the cities.
Now, the European market, too, is drying up. Major European travel companies have canceled bookings through October after televised scenes of chaos and European governments’ warnings to avoid Egypt.
“We have canceled all trips to Egypt until Sept. 15,” said Anja Braun, a spokeswoman for TUI, one of Germany’s biggest travel operators, said the company has canceled all trips to Egypt until Sept. 15.
Customers can either rebook a trip to a different destination free of charge or get their money back, she said.
Costa Crociere SpA, one of Italy’s main cruise operators, has canceled all Red Sea cruises and stops in Egypt through the 2013-2014 winter season.
“Egypt is the No. 1 tourist destination for Italians,” said Massimo Broccoli, commercial director of Veratour tour operator. “Clearly there will be an economic impact.”
In France, the Association of Tour Operators suspended tours to Cairo, the Red Sea and all other cities until further notice.

Even the lucrative Russian market, which accounted for the largest share of foreign tourists at 14 percent, is feeling the effects.

Planes are still leaving Moscow’s airports for Egypt, packed with travelers who already paid for their trips and cannot cancel without a penalty payment. But the Association of Tour Operators of Russia reports that about 30 percent of the advance package tours to Egypt have been canceled.
However, relatively few Russians, Germans, Italians, Serbs and others who were already at their beach resorts when violence escalated this month chose to leave early. Tour operators in Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden and Norway did fly hundreds of vacationers back home early — sometimes to the dismay of the tourists who said the resorts were quiet and they didn’t want to leave.
“We have offered individual solutions for tourists who are worried and want to go home early,” said Braun of TUI, which had about 6,000 customers at Red Sea resorts last week. “But so far fewer than 100 tourists have taken us up on the offer and cut short their vacations.”
Some hardy souls are still traveling to Egypt, either because they believe they can avoid trouble or because they can’t cancel without a penalty.
“We had already reserved in less stormy times,” said Giuseppe Giordano as he waited with a friend to check in Tuesday at Rome’s airport for an EgyptAir flight to Cairo. “Newspapers and television often exaggerate. Often, only being there can one really understand what’s going on.”
Those who do venture to Egypt will find restaurants and bars closing early due to a curfew in Cairo and many other areas except the Red Sea. Folklore shows and cultural events have been canceled. Museums are open for just a few hours a day.
“There will be losses on all sides, from the souvenir vendors in Egypt to the hotel and bus operators and airlines to the travel agencies in Germany,” said Torsten Schaefer of the German Travel Association. “It’s too early to say how high the losses will be, but certainly there will be massive cuts for the population in Egypt and livelihoods will be destroyed.”
The crisis facing Egyptian tourism flared just as the industry was rebounding: Last year, 11.5 million foreigners visited Egypt, a 17 percent increase from the 9.8 million in 2011.
Egyptian officials, tourism employees and foreign travel agents are hopeful this will happen again once stability returns.
“Egypt is a remarkable destination that many older Americans have on their ‘bucket lists’ so there will be pent-up demand for travel there when the time comes to return,” said Priscilla O’Reilly of the US-based Overseas Adventure Travel.
Pamela Lassers of Abercrombie & Kent USA said that over the years “we have seen many ups and downs in the Middle East” and that the US industry believes that eventually Egypt “will once again be welcoming travelers to the country’s many World Heritage sites.”
That’s small comfort to Youssef, the boat operator who is among the millions of Egyptians who rely on tourism for their livelihood.
With the tourists gone, Youssef has taken a job as a security guard at a store. The $43 he earns there each month provides for 10 people, including his wife, their four children and his sister and her three.
“Everyone is borrowing from everyone,” he said. “I swear to God, we are not living.”

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The Saudi led-coalition fighting to reinstate Yemen’s exiled government aims first to set it up in Aden and then return it to Sanaa if possible via peace talks with Houthi foes, a coalition spokesman said.But if the Iranian-allied Houthis did...
RIYADH: Nine Omani Umrah pilgrims, on their way back home, were killed and 34 were injured, in a road accident which took place near Khurais, between Riyadh and Al-Ahsa province.According to police, the coach carrying the pilgrims collided with a tra...
JEDDAH: The Kingdom and Namibia have signed a protocol to establish diplomatic relations between them.According to SPA, the protocol was signed on Tuesday by Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations Abdullah Al-Mouallimi and his...
JEDDAH: Official reports reveal nationalization levels of medical and health workers in the Kingdom remain low, with Saudi nationals making up only 21.7 percent of physicians, 31.8 percent of nurses, and 67.4 percent of ancillary staff.According to t...
JEDDAH: The Saudi Food and Drugs Authority (SFDA) will begin receiving clearance applications for medicines and medical supplies, including drugs containing narcotic or psychotropic substances, for Haj missions or other government bodies on Saturday....
JEDDAH: Saudi importers of cattle said the Haj season this year will not see an increase in the price of livestock due to the stability of the local market and the available supply.There are also guarantees from exporting countries that required quan...
JEDDAH: At the upcoming elections the national identity card will be the only approved document used for identifying voters of both genders and allowing voters to exercise their electoral right, provided all statutory requirements are met.In a press...
JEDDAH: Education Minister Azzam Al-Dakhil has spoken of a new education policy which emphasizes the importance of harmonizing admission policies in universities with the needs of the labor market.Al-Dakhil made these remarks during a meeting with un...
JEDDAH: Local bottled water consumption during the summer, Umrah and Haj seasons this year will increase by 10 percent.“This translates into an annual growth rate of between 4 percent and 5 percent,” Rashed Bin-Zouma, a water industry expert, was qu...
RIYADH: Four Saudi secondary students including a young woman from the Eastern Province have received prestigious medals at the 47th International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO), which concluded in Azerbaijan last week.The winners of the four bronze medal...
JEDDAH: The UAE’s decision to lift fuel subsidies beginning in August has raised the possibility of other Gulf states following suit.Economists suggest a wide disparity of prices of gasoline in the Gulf countries will lead to more petrol smuggling op...
DAMMAM: The tourism industry in the Kingdom is witnessing great interest by authorities to develop the archaeological areas, promote their support services and create the best environment for tourism products, said businessman Abdul Mohsen Al-Hokair....
JEDDAH: The ongoing World Circus at north Obhur has brought smiles on the faces of orphans, with its show of acrobats featuring 20 performers and clowns.The orphans of Al-Rawdah district charitable organization said they found the circus entertaining...
RIYADH: The Nepalese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Udayaraj Pandey, thanked the Kingdom on Thursday as he ends his four-year tour of duty in Saudi Arabia.Earlier in the day, he called on Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar to pay him a courtesy call a...
RIYADH: Movies produced by young and amateur Saudi filmmakers will be shown on Saudi Television starting in the middle of next week.“The films will be shown daily to encourage young Saudi filmmakers,” said Abdulaziz Fahad Al-Eid, senior broadcaster a...

Stay Connected

Facebook