Monday, August 8, 2016

Spotlight: Egypt sluggish in reviving tourism haunted by plane crash - Xinhua |
Spotlight: Egypt sluggish in reviving tourism haunted by plane crash

Source: Xinhua | 2016-08-04 02:56:18 | Editor: huaxia

Tourists listen to explanations during a guided tour at the Egyptian Museum on June 21, 2016 in the capital Cairo. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)

HURGHADA, Egypt, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Tourism in Egypt in general and the Red Sea resort city of Hurghada in particular is still affected by a Russian travel ban, yet internal tourism is compensating to some extent for the recession, Red Sea Governor Ahmed Abdullah has said.

A Russian plane crash in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, which killed over 200 in October last year, led Russia, Britain and some other Western states to ban their citizens from visiting the Arab country. The incident was claimed by a Sinai-based militant group affiliated with the Islamic State (IS).

The situation further deteriorated after an Italian student's ambiguous death in Cairo in February this year and the tragic crash of an EgyptAir flight in the Mediterranean Sea in May that killed all 66 passengers on board.

The number of tourists coming to the country declined in May by 51.7 percent with Russian visitors largely contributing to the decline as their numbers fell by 98.5 percent in the month, according to a report by the Egyptian statistics authority.

"There are efforts to attract tourists from new markets instead of depending on a single source, Europe," Abdullah said. "Diversifying tourism markets is a necessary but it takes time."

The governor noted that his resort province has already started dealing with new tourism markets, arranging five trips from China every week and focusing on other promising markets like India, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

"All what the Western media is circulating regarding the unsafe situation in Egypt is completely untrue, given the testimonies of tourists visiting Hurghada from all over the world," Governor Abdullah continued, sending a message to potential tourists around the globe.

The tourism recession dealt a blow to the most populous Arab country as it is one of Egypt's main sources of national income and foreign currency reserves, with about four million Egyptians employees working in the industry.

In 2010 alone, tourism revenues into Egypt stood at around 13 billion U.S. dollars with over 14.7 million tourists visiting the country.

However, the number of visitors fell to 9.3 million in 2015 with 6.1 billion dollars in revenues.

The Red Sea governor revealed that tourism in Hurghada has yet to return to normal as hotel occupancy rates declined from 90 percent in July and August 2015 to 45 percent in the same period in 2016. "There is around a 40 percent decline in tourism in Hurghada in July 2016 compared to the same month last year."

Discussing some major projects to be launched soon in Hurghada, Abdullah said that a number of upcoming investments will shortly be announced, including a giant Disneyland-like entertainment park.

"A high-speed train will also be running in order to connect the capital city of Cairo to the Red Sea's Hurghada and Upper Egypt's Luxor," he told Xinhua.

Abdullah participated in a ceremonial voyage Saturday which marked the opening of a new 300-passenger ferry, the first in five years, connecting the Red Sea resort cities of Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh to further promote tourism.

"The ferry is called La Pespes, and can cover the 96 km from Hurghada to Sharm El-Sheikh in only two hours," the governor said, adding that resuming similar cruises is geared towards boosting tourism in both resort cities in addition to promoting one-day trips.

He explained further that some tourists visiting Hurghada would also like to visit Sharm El-Sheikh or Saint Catherine in South Sinai or vice verse. "Land transportation takes too long, so we thought of this two-hour trip to enable tourists to visit several sites in one day."

"Providing suitable transport via land, air and sea is essential in promoting and stabilizing tourism," the governor told Xinhua.

Abdullah revealed that similar ferries will be soon introduced to connect Egypt's Red Sea cities of Hurghada and Saudi Arabia's Duba to attract Saudi and Gulf tourists in general.

Hurghada, the administrative capital of the Red Sea, occupies about 40 km of Egypt's Red Sea coastline.

The city has become popular worldwide for its fascinating resort towns such as El Gouna, Sahl Hasheesh, Soma Bay, Makadi Bay and others.

The Arab Center for Media Tourism in Dubai awarded Hurghada with the best Arab tourist destination award in 2015.

"Let's remain optimistic! Tourism will definitely return to Hurghada," concluded the Red Sea governor.