Hope glimmers for demoralized Egyptian tourist industry

Mon Oct 14, 2013 3:18am EDT
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By Maggie Fick

CAIRO (Reuters) - Morale in Egypt's tourism industry is at rock bottom; a summer of bloodshed has frightened away all but the bravest foreign visitors from Cairo and the pyramids, and things are little better in the Red Sea beach resorts.

Yet if the business could survive the 1997 bloodbath at Luxor, when Islamist militants killed dozens of tourists at a pharaoh's temple, it can probably recover from its current convulsions.

Already visitors are gradually returning after the worst civil violence in Egypt's modern history, offering hope to an industry that has been brought to its knees, depriving millions of their livelihood and the economy of badly needed dollars.

However, Egyptians know that numbers can never climb back to anywhere near their 2010 peak as long as security crackdowns, street protests and militant attacks on the government persist.

Like other countries in trouble, Egypt could try an advertising campaign to lure back the Europeans, Asians, Americans and Gulf Arabs who are now largely holidaying elsewhere. But for now it won't even bother.

"There is really no point in trying to embark on a PR campaign," said Karim Helal, an adviser to Egypt's tourism minister. "If you cannot convey the feeling that it is safe, nobody will come," said Helal, a dive company owner turned investment banker.

Egypt has endured almost constant upheaval since a 2011 popular uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, but things have got much worse since the army's removal of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July and the bloodshed that followed.

As international media broadcast scenes of mosques and morgues filled with bodies, governments in the main tourist markets issued warnings on travelling to Egypt.   Continued...

Pharaonic artefacts are seen on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, September 30, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany