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Egypt must work harder to revive tourism after setbacks: Minister

Reuters , Sunday 22 May 2016
Yehia Rashed
Egyptian Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Cairo, Egypt, April 7, 2016 (Reuters)
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Egypt will have to work 10 times harder to revive its tourism industry, Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed said on Sunday, after a series of setbacks including the crash of an EgyptAir flight into the Mediterranean three days ago.

Rashed sought to play down the impact of the crash on Egypt's image. All 66 people on board the plane are believed to have died and the reason for the crash is not yet clear.

"The efforts that we need to put are maybe 10 times what we planned to put in place but we need to focus on our ability to drive business back to Egypt to change the image of Egypt," said Rashed from his office overlooking the River Nile.

"What we need to understand is this is an incident that could have taken place anywhere. Aviation incidents happen, unfortunately."

Egypt's tourism industry, a cornerstone of the economy and a critical source of hard currency, has struggled to rebound since the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule ushered in a period of political and economic upheaval.

The number of tourists fell 40 percent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to last year due in large part to the suspected bombing of a Russian plane carrying 224 people from a Red Sea resort in late October.

Islamic State said it had smuggled a bomb aboard and President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi called the incident act of terrorism.

Rashed said the incidents were not linked and argued that EgyptAir's management of the crises had boosted confidence in the Egyptian flag carrier. He said it was too soon to gauge the impact of Thursday's crash on future arrivals.

"It's very early to say but I don't presume that we will have cancellations," he told Reuters.

"People want to travel more with EgyptAir because they know us. I mean, it's one of the first airlines in the world you know so it does have a history of safety, it does have a history of hospitality."

Following the Russian plane bombing, British and Russian airlines suspended flights to Sharm El-Sheikh, which was popular with holidaymakers seeking winter sun, until they are satisfied with improvements to airport security. The ban has held back any recovery.

Rashed rejected the notion that the crash of the Paris to Cairo flight on the Thursday might further delay the resumption of those flights.

"On the contrary, it may be a good time for them to rethink their position," he said. "I haven't heard anything (about a resumption) but I wish it was yesterday."

More than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, dropping to 9.8 million in 2011. Last month, Rashed told Reuters the country hoped to attract 12 million tourists back by the end of 2017, with a six point plan. He said on Sunday that plan was going head.

Asked how Thursday's crash might affect tourism revenues, Rashed declined to give forecasts.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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Rob Cooke London
24-05-2016 11:03am
Problem is the dire tourist experience
Air crashes and travel bans provide a convenient fig leaf for the ineptitude of the Egyptian government, including Mr Rashed, to get their act together. To the European visitor, in particular individual travelers, Egypt feels like North Korea with pyramids, except that government officials in North Korea are more welcoming and you are not ripped off and hassled round the clock. The government should also realise that in the age of the internet the Human Rights situation in the country has a much greater impact on tourist's travel preferences and the wider economy than it had, say, 10-20 years ago. Just think how many $billions of business the Regeni case alone has lost the Egyptian economy, both within and outside the tourism sector.
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Sam Enslow
23-05-2016 08:35am
People to people contacts
Egypt has many archaeological sites and other tourist assets, but a main reason people travel is to get to know the people of the country visited. But Egypt doesn't list 'a chance to enjoy the friendly hospitality of the Egyptian people' as a reason to visit. One is never sure if this is because it is ashamed of the Egyptian people or afraid the foreigners will 'corrupt' the Egyptians. The message seems to be, 'Go look at our monuments in a group, get cheated by those working in tourism, and then go back to your hotel/boat.' Walk with an Egyptian, and you out him in danger of being stopped by the security services, 'Why are you with him?' Take a photo that reveals nothing that cannot be seen on Google Earth, any you are probably a spy. I have over the years talked to many visitors to Egypt who wish they had more time. When I ask if they will return, the answer is, 'No. It is too hard.' If they want to stay longer and extend their visas now, the process is maddening or impossible with new security procedures that accomplish nothing. A tourist extending his visa should be encouraged. Spies and terrorists do not worry about such formalities. Put the welcome mat out, smile, treat the tourist like a guest - not a potential enemy. This applies too to long stayers who invest in Egypt who are now treated as enemies of the State. The minister needs to work to make Egypt a place people want to visit because its a wonderful experience to do so. Egypt's wonders do not need advertising. The tourists' experience needs to be improved.
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22-05-2016 09:44pm
“change the image of Egypt”
You’re getting on the right track, Minister. Changing the image (and reality) of Egypt is the only way to bring tourists back. Plane crashes unfortunately happen to other countries too but they don’t paralyze their economies because these accidents, as sad as they are, are not triggered by the policies of their governments. Since you are on the right track of “change the image of Egypt” allow me to point you in the right direction: Tell your fellow Ministers not to arrest, jail, and torture human rights advocated, journalists, and peaceful protesters; tell them not to bark are every Western country trying to help Egypt with the right advice; tell them to respect tourists and not make their lives difficult and unpleasant in Egypt; tell them not to smear patriotic Egyptians, contributing expats, and helpful NGO’s and accuse them of being terrorist or spies; this is how to bring tourists back to Egypt Minister; work 10 times as hard on that!
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24-05-2016 03:09pm
Yes, yes & yes!
Very well said Mr. Tut! All the pieces will fall into place if you work like you said 10 times on all that you said! As a side note, however, I would like to know who gave you and the Egyptian a thumbs down vote on these great points you stated? Did you guys say something wrong in that person's eyes? Unbelievable, I tell you!
22-05-2016 10:10pm

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