Egypt to spend $32 million upgrading tourist security
Cairo — The Egyptian government will spend $32 million (about R526.7m at R16.46/$) to upgrade security in two Red Sea resorts popular with foreign tourists in the wake of recent attacks on hotels and the suspected terror bombing of a Russian airliner, the tourism minister said Thursday.
The move is designed to restore confidence in the safety of the country's tourist attractions.
The country also unveiled what it says is the Middle East's first museum dedicated to fossils and showcasing an early form of whales, now extinct and known as the "walking whale."
The museum opened Thursday, 14 January, near the Fayoum Oasis south of the capital, Cairo. It's the latest effort by the authorities to attract much-needed tourists, driven away by recent militant attacks.
The centerpiece of the Fossils and Climate Change Museum, is an intact, 37-million-year-old and 20-meter-long skeleton of a legged form of whale that shows how modern-day whales evolved from land mammals.
Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy says the paleontological display will attract a different kind of tourist from those who come for the beaches and pharaonic antiquities.
The overall security upgrade, minister Hisham Zaazou says, is to expand the use of security cameras, scanning and detection equipment and sniffer dogs in the towns of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada.
Additional security personnel will also be deployed there, he said.
"The security of visitors to Egypt remains our highest priority," Zaazou said in a statement. "I believe that these new measures will further add to the security of our resorts while not being intrusive to tourists so they can get on with enjoying their holidays."
The government's decision comes after two attacks earlier this month that targeted hotels frequented by foreign tourists in Cairo and Hurghada. No one was hurt in the Cairo attack, but three tourists — two Austrians and a Swede — were stabbed in Hurghada.
Tourism numbers fell sharply in the tumultuous five years since the 2011 popular uprising ousted Egypt's longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. A long running Islamic insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula intensified after the 2013 ouster by the military of Mubarak's successor, Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, worsening tourism woes.
The industry was further decimated after the October crash of the Russian airliner over Sinai that killed all 224 people on board shortly after it took off from Sharm el-Sheikh. Russia said the plane was likely brought down by a homemade bomb and a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. The IS said it planted the bomb inside a soda can.
Russia suspended all flights to Egypt in response to the crash and Britain halted flights to Sharm el-Sheikh — decisions that have robbed Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada of two of their biggest customers.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi says that security has been tightened in the country's airports since the crash.
Last month, Egypt said it has hired a British consultancy, Control Risks, to help boost airport security and ensure that Egyptian airports comply with international standards.