Accidental attack on Mexican tourists could impact Egypt's tourism sector: Head of Tourism Chamber

Waad Ahmed , Dalia Farouq , Tuesday 15 Sep 2015

Egypt has been struggling to recover its once booming tourism industry following the 2011 uprising, with Sunday's incident possibly making it even more difficult

A four-wheel drive car crosses the Egyptian western desert and the Bahariya Oasis, southwest of Cairo in this picture taken May 15, 2015. Egyptian security forces killed 12 Mexicans and Egyptians. (Reuters)

The accidental attack by Egyptian security forces on a safari tour in the Western desert on Sunday could possibly have an impact on the country’s attempts to recover a once booming tourism sector, according Amary Abdel Aziz, the head of the Tourism and Aviation division in the Chamber of Commerce in Cairo.

The attack by Egyptian Security Forces that killed 12 and injured 10 Egyptians and Mexicans on a Safari tour in the Western Desert is the second time a large accident has left tourists dead since the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi on the back of large protests against his rule.

In February 2014, a bomb blast targeted a tourist bus in South Sinai's Taba killing two South Koreans and the Egyptian driver.

"This accident, like any other event regarding tourism, could affect the sector as a whole," Abdel Azim told Ahram Online in a phone interview on Tuesday.

However, safari tourism in Egypt has already been hit by the deteriorating security situation and continuing instability following the 25 January uprising in 2011, according to Abdel Azim.

“Prior to the revolution, Safari tours received around 350,000 tourists annually but after the revolution the figure fell to around 5,000 tourists annually,” he added.

Ahram Online was unable to confirm those figures.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Tourism spokesperson, Rasha El-Azaizy, said on Monday that the accident occurred in an unauthorised area and that the tour company did not acquire the required permits.

However, the tour company claimed that they did have the necessary permits.

Abdel Aziz said that the government needs to show condolences to the victims of the attack and exert efforts to mitigate the implications of the accident on the tourism sector.

After the bomb that killed the South Korean tourists, Germany and other European countries banned travel to South Sinai where the accident took place, but most of the bans were lifted in the following summer.

Egypt's tourism revenues, one of the main sources of foreign currency to Egypt, surged 45.3 percent to reach $7.4 billion in the fiscal year ending 30 June 2015, compared to $5.1 billion in the same period the previous year, according to the central bank.

The recovery in tourism revenues remains well below the $12.5 billion generated in the peak year of 2010 prior to the uprising.

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