Egypt’s hotels win over domestic tourists with on-site clinics

A client books a room at Conrad, one of the hotels in Egypt that received a stamp of approval to reopen amid the COVID-19 crisis in Cairo on June 4, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 June 2020

Egypt’s hotels win over domestic tourists with on-site clinics

  • 99 hotels have been allowed to reopen at a quarter of their usual capacity if they met strict health and safety protocols
  • Tourism accounts for about 12%-15% of GDP

CAIRO: Hotels in Egypt have implemented government safety regulations which include having an on-site clinic with resident doctor, regular temperature checks of guests and a quarantine area, as they try to attract domestic tourists, hotel officials said.
Egypt suspended international flights in March and shut down restaurants, hotels and cafes in order to combat the pandemic, which has cost its tourist sector an estimated $1 billion per month.
Tourism accounts for about 12%-15% of gross domestic product.
Although airports remain closed to all but domestic and repatriation flights, 99 hotels have been allowed to reopen at a quarter of their usual capacity if they met strict health and safety protocols.
Guests must be registered online and workers have to undergo rapid coronavirus tests when entering resorts, while a hotel floor or small building must be assigned as a quarantine area for positive or suspected coronavirus cases.
As of June, hotels certified as meeting regulations have been allowed to run at maximum 50% capacity.
“They have sanitized my bag. I have also done the key-less check in, which is the first time this has happened and the first time I see this,” said Hossam Ragaie, a guest at the Conrad luxury hotel in Cairo.
Large events and buffets have been banned, said Karim Helmy, general manager of the Hilton King’s Ranch hotel in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
Nevine Hamdy, who used to be a regular guest at the hotel before the pandemic, returned with her family to spend a few nights.
“From the very start at the gate, the workers are wearing masks and gloves. There is no close interaction... They are taking the highest precautionary measures,” she said.
Egypt has reported 29,767 coronavirus cases as of Thursday including 1,126 deaths.


US ‘disappointed’ by Turkey mosque move on Hagia Sophia

People, some wearing face masks, pray outside the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul on July 10, 2020 as they gather to celebrate after a top Turkish court revoked the sixth-century Hagia Sophia's status as a museum, clearing the way for it to be turned back into a mosque. (AFP)
Updated 5 min 46 sec ago

US ‘disappointed’ by Turkey mosque move on Hagia Sophia

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has chipped away at the Muslim-majority country’s secularism, announced Muslim prayers on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site

WASHINGTON: The US said it was “disappointed” by Turkey’s decision to turn the Byzantine-era monument Hagia Sophia back into a mosque and urged equal access for all visitors.
“We are disappointed by the decision by the government of Turkey to change the status of the Hagia Sophia,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
“We understand the Turkish government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all,” she said on Friday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has chipped away at the Muslim-majority country’s secularism, announced Muslim prayers on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site.
A magnet for tourists worldwide, the Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Erdogan’s announcement came after the cancellation of a decision under modern Turkey’s secularizing founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to preserve the church-turned-mosque as a museum.

We understand the Turkish government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all.

Morgan Ortagus, State Department spokeswoman

Erdogan went ahead despite an open appeal to the NATO ally by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian who frequently speaks about religious freedom.
In a statement last week, Pompeo called the museum status an “exemplar” of Turkey’s “commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history” of the country and said a change risked “diminishing the legacy of this remarkable building.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also said on Friday he deeply regretted Turkey’s decision.
Biden called on Erdogan to reverse it “and instead keep this treasured place in its current status as a museum, ensuring equal access for all.”