Oriente Medio y Magreb

One more strike for Egypt’s Tourism Industry

One more strike for Egypt’s Tourism Industry
Rosa María Mateos

A destination turns into an attraction once men creatively build ideas, which can either give a new impression of the place, or, use what they already have to offer and make them accessible, followed by the marketing and promotion, which calls the future visitors. Some destinations were privileged by the history and what was left from it. An example of such a historical place is the magnificent Egypt. As the majority people might know, this country has famous monuments and architectures from almost 3000 B.C.

Unfortunately, this country has in its history not just pleasant moments, but conflicts, and still very active ones. Unfortunately, recent plane crash from Sharm el-Sheikh airport (Egypt) to St Petersburg (Russia) it is certainly a direct consequence with immeasurable costs for its tourism industry.

The fact is that currently tourism in Egypt is the second most important source of national income, just behind the Suez Canal trade, providing direct and indirect employment to up to 12.6 percent of the country’s workforce, symbolizing 2.9 million. In 2014, the destination received 9.8 million people, adding $36 billion to the economy, representing 12.8% of GDP.

However, the Egyptians are concerned that the Russian plane crash will put off tourists. In 2013, Russians made 1.9 million trips to Egypt, representing one in every five tourists. Meanwhile, the number of tourists from the UK has plummeted.

In 2010, 671000 UK citizens visited the country, but in 2014 that figure went down to 296000. The country stands to lose a large and critical source of income in the region of the tourism industry shut down because of terrorism fears.

The growth of tourism in Egypt has boosted the entire economy in the last thirty years. The importance of tourism for the Egyptian economy is not only because of its major source of exchange currency, but also that it provides a lot of employment for Egyptians (almost 12%, as previously stated) and that it has encouraged rapid development that benefits the citizens as well as tourists. The authorities hope to achieve, by 2020, 30 million visitors, which may generate revenue of 19 billion euros.

Certainly tourism has become the world’s largest export earner and an increasingly important item on the balance of payments for many countries including this one. Although, tourism is already one of the most important economic activities in many countries around the world, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), this industry is expected to lead economic activity in the next decades as a factor promoting economic growth and as a source of employment of any other industrial sector. For this reason, Egypt has to restructure and organize itself to promote it worldwide. The money left by tourists in the country is key income in order to carry on economically growing.

In 2014 tourism increased very little compared to the previous year. One of the worst tourism seasons in Egypt happened in 2013, and in the first quarter of 2014, because many countries were against travel to most areas of Egypt due to the risk of terrorism that were happening in the area.

Even with the campaigns for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, that inflow of Arab tourists and with the improvements in security and stability, the total numbers of tourists in the region were still far from the total number of tourists in 2010.

There are many negative impacts towards the Egyptian Tourism industry which can affect their image and their economy. It’s a huge problem for people not to feel safe in the destination that they are visiting especially when it was once known as a beautiful place with lots of historical sites and secrets.

According to World Tourism Organization (WTO) safety and uncontrolled diseases spread are the most dangerous threats for tourism development worldwide. Unfortunately Egypt is corroborating this fact one more time. Although the country is investing in different kind of tourism development, tourists are still afraid of visiting the area, because of the constant threat of terrorism. A number of different terrorist attacks occurred during the current year. In June 10th, when an attack on a security checkpoint at the Karnak Temple site in Luxor was repelled by Egyptian security personnel, resulting in the death of 2 attackers or in July 11th there was an explosion in the Italian Consulate in Cairo are the perfect examples of this current attacks.

Tourists are unclear of the laws and what facts happening in Egypt, people are too afraid to travel and are afraid for their safety, which is undeniable negative for its tourism industry.

Terrorist attacks always call to people’s attention and leave them worried about going to the place, about what could happen and about what if it happens again. They stay in people’s memories, as we can see with the World Trade Center attack in September, 2001, No one will ever forget that awful moment still steadily nourished by other terror events worldwide including recent terrorism killing over hundred people last Friday (November 13th 2015) in Paris.

Understanding instability. Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamic organization of radicals that is really similar to ISIS in Syria and Iraq. For years since the war started Egypt has maintained itself neutral to the Syrian conflict. Egypt and Syria are sympathizing more and more since they have a common enemy in the Islamist regime: ISIS, who has a lot of power and is already taking over some of the Syrian territory. ISIS has created a State where they rule inside Syria, which is called the Islamic State. This negative relation between Egypt and ISIS is one of the reasons that might have made the radicals to bomb the Russian Metrojet airplane in the Egypt territory last Saturday October 31st 2015, affecting their entire economy, social environment and reputation, in which it made a significant dent.

It is a very complex political situation indeed affecting dramatically to tourism. In this case the parts involved are Russia, because it was their Metrojet’s Airbus the one attacked and Egypt, because it was the place where the accident took place.

The problem of destinations where their main income relies mainly in tourism is that any type of terrorist incident really has a direct repercussion on the destination. Not only because it gives bad reputation, but also because the image that they project to the world is of an unsafe and dangerous place to visit, as it is nowadays the case of Egypt.

These attacks will keep adding on top of each other and this will mainly harm Egypt as a top leading destination in Africa.

Terrorism has a direct and very real impact on Human Rights; terrorism destabilizes governments, jeopardizes peace and security and threatens economic and social development. The terrorists want to achieve impacting society because they are looking to fear in order to take advantage directly affecting the economy and social development.

As it is already mentioned, one of the maximum revenues of Egypt comes from tourism, this is why the terrorists are effectively affecting its economy. The immediate consequences are unemployment because a lot of businesses had to be shut down due to the lack of tourists which means that hotels have closed down their doors. Retail stores, travel agencies, restaurants, tour guides, transportation systems are some of the many examples. In conclusion: a decline on Egypt’s tourism. On the other hand, even if it might be a little insensitive, from an outsider’s point of view, travel agencies are trying to sell trips half the price at least, for people to come and still visit Egypt even after the terrorist attack and how unsafe it might be for the visitors.

After the accident involving the Russian airplane and its likely terrorism attack, the country is no longer consider a safe destination which caused a lack of infrastructure and confidence between well-known airline companies (such as Lufthansa, Air France and Emirates) and the affected region, once a bunch of flights were cancelled since the original cause of the accident remains unknown.

Crises like this significantly affect the local economy, since it relies on tourism to settle down. Tourists nowadays are looking for leisure comfort and mainly safety. Accidents like this does not strengthen the perception of political control in the country influencing the choice of holiday destinations for travelers. An alternative for the country should be to change their main focus on tourism, to improve their economy in other sectors as well. Once after this accident, it will bring a lot of bad influences to this country. For instance, the economy will decrease the income for Egypt’s government. Also it will affect the taxation and also social benefit, the labor market, once tourism is the main industry in Egypt, so a lot of people are losing as a consequence of this crisis.

Egypt’s government must show confidence in the industry and highlights the continued investment in infrastructure. In order to develop and recover from this crisis, it may present solutions in other areas, such as in its exportation of goods, to not lose opportunities.

With the prohibition of UK and Russian flights, the Egyptian tourism industry is concerned about this issue since the country could lose around 70% of its total visitors according to an Egyptian official. Russian nationals make up the single largest group of visitors to Egypt, with round three million tourists per year, followed by one million British tourists per year who significantly contribute to Egypt’s economy.

The crisis risks are dealing with a huge blow to Egypt’s tourism industry, but also to Russian tour operators and many other stakeholders.

President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi insisted Sinai was safe despite the presence of Isis-affiliated militants in the area. He said “When there is propaganda that it crashed because of Isis, this is one way to damage the stability and security of Egypt and the image of Egypt”. But these words don’t reassure the tourists, and it’s now difficult for the Egyptian tourism industry to find a tourism strategy to save their destination. In the nearby future, most of the tourists who do travel to warm destinations won’t choose Egypt as their first destination because of the insecurity in the country probably benefiting safer destinations in the Mediterranean basin.

The Egyptian tourism industry has to change their way of promoting their destination, otherwise the problem with the economy will keep growing. They have to revise their offers and focuses on a new marketing plan, or just change their strategy to earn money. The tourist numbers will continue to decrease: in 2014, only 9.9 million tourists visited Egypt compared to 15 million in 2010. Some of the hotels directors and tour-operators are afraid about the tourist attendance.

The authorities have the challenge to convince world tourists to continue choosing Egypt as a touristic destination. The main problem to attract more tourists to the area is to promote a unique experience, in a place that worldwide media spread is no longer safe.

So in this case for tourists to continue to visit Egypt, the authorities had to increase the security in the airports and streets, so everybody that goes can feel safe about the destination that they are going to visit. When you have the feeling that you are safe where you are, you will recommend to friends, and that can attract more tourists. The use of storytellers nowadays can provide more authenticity to the facts, since someone else has already experienced the place.

After all, the government has to promote the destination with things it really has. Most of the journals increase the information when they publish their news. The anxiety is caused from this to potential tourists to the area. Once the state recognizes its flaws and knows where to improve, it is a beginning of a vote of security to others, improving their image abroad.

Tourism Industry awaits for important security measures in Egypt. If the security is further enhanced the tourists will be more reassured, but it will take time for Egypt to be massively consider a safe tourism destination even under peaceful and stable conditions.

One more time terror has strike Egypt`s economy, a real challenge difficult to overcome but also necessary to defeat terror.

Oriente Medio y Magreb
Rosa María Mateos

Redactora jefe de Europea Media y Europea News.

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