Egypt renews efforts to attract foreign tourists to its shores

Dalia Farouk, Ahram Online, Monday 3 Mar 2014

Authorities mount international campaign to reassure tourists that Red Sea and Sinai beach resorts are safe, following the 16 February bombing of a tourist bus in South Sinai that killed four

Tourists are seen at a beach in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh
File Photo: Tourists are seen at a beach in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh December 2, 2010 (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's tourism minister has opened the door for security delegations from other countries to assess the safety of touristic areas across the country, part of a continued effort to convince the international community that Egypt is safe for visitors.

The announcement from tourism minister Hisham Zaazou on Sunday at ITB Berlin, the world's largest annual trade fair, comes in the wake of a recent bombing of a tourist bus in the South Sinai resort town of Taba that killed three South Korean tourists and their Egyptian bus driver.

The attack, claimed by the Sinai-based militant Islamist group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, was the first to directly target tourists since the start of a terrorist campaign against the military and police following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July.

Following the bus bombing, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, France, and Switzerland all issued warnings against travel to Egypt's Sinai and advised their citizens to leave the peninsula immediately, and tourism companies began evacuating their customers.

Hotel occupancy rates in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh have slid to 48 percent, down from 55 percent a week earlier, an official source told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website on Sunday.

Twenty percent of reservations in Sharm El-Sheikh have been cancelled, the source added.

Some two dozen countries issued travel warnings for Egypt after Morsi's ouster due to the political violence gripping the country at the time, but eased those warnings later.

The Red Sea and Sinai coastal areas are a vital hub of Egypt's ailing tourism sector, welcoming around 75 percent of the country's holidaymakers in the past three years, tourism ministry spokesperson Rasha El-Azaizy told AFP after February's bus bombing.

A security team sent by the United Kingdom to Sinai last week to check on the security measures in tourist resorts found no necessity for a travel ban to Egypt, the source added.

Egypt's tourism sector, which contributes around 11 percent of the country's GDP, has experienced a series of hits since the January 2011 uprising which toppled long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak.

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