CAIRO: The Egyptian government has announced that domestic tourism, which had been suspended for over two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, can now resume.
The government approved a number of measures in coordination with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Ministry of Health, and in accordance with the directions of the World Health Organization. Hotels will be allowed to operate at 25 percent of their capacity until June 1, when they will be allowed to operate at 50-percent capacity.
Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El-Anany told journalists that coastal cities such as Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh are “healthier than big crowded cities,” adding that hotels which could “prove they have committed to the rules and regulations in the period from May 15 to 31 will be part of a new system that will soon be adopted by the government.”
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly underlined the importance of the tourism and hospitality sector in providing job opportunities and as a vital source of income for the state. He said the state was keen to alleviate the negative impact of the coronavirus on the tourism sector and its employees.
The prime minister stressed that all the precautionary measures that were discussed during the cabinet meeting must be implemented “with full accuracy.”
But the decision to restart domestic tourism was not without its critics. While some parliamentarians backed the decision, seeing it as a chance to support the tourism sector and its employees, detractors said that tourism of all kinds needs to be postponed until the COVID-19 crisis is over, and urged the government not to risk the health of the Egyptian people.
MP Ahmed Edris, a member of the Tourism and Aviation Committee, supported the decision, pointing out that the tourism sector is the state’s main source of income and employs more than 13 million Egyptians directly or indirectly.
Edris called on owners of hotels and tourism businesses to draft a plan for safe tourism operations and to implement preventive health measures in hotels and restaurants to maintain the safety of all employees.
MP Thoraya El-Sheikh, however, said that domestic tourism should be pushed back by at least a month, in light of the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases. Egypt has registered 7,201 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 452 deaths.
“The Egyptian people love family gatherings and this increases the danger of infection,” El-Sheikh said.
Hisham El-Shaer, a member of the Chamber of Tourism in the Egyptian Tourism Federation, said the government’s decision will bring the tourism sector back to life, and that adhering to implementing coronavirus precautionary measures will send a message of safety to foreign tourists, with a number of countries set to lift travel restrictions.