Travel official draws up plan to rescue tourism

The head of Egypt's travel agencies chamber, Hossam al-Sha'er, said he has drawn up a plan to get tourism back to its normal rates.

The plan recommends contracting an international marketing and publicity company to promote tourism in Egypt, as well as separating the marketing of the Red Sea, Sharm el-Sheikh and Cairo, as integration has led, Sha'er said, to a tourism recession in Red Sea and Sinai resorts.

Sha’er recommended the replanning and beautification of tourist resorts and promoting the advantages of Egyptian tourist destinations by, for example, canceling visa requirements. “Canceling visa requirements is not a new thing. They were canceled during the Luxor crisis," referring to a shooting in 1997 in which 62 people, mostly tourists, were killed.

Sha’er also wants it to be easier for Iranian tourists to obtain entry visas, which he said would help boost confidence in Egyptian tourism and make up for the huge losses the sector has suffered.

Sha’er stressed the necessity of hosting festivals, saying he had agreed with the tourism minister to resume Nile cruises between Cairo and Aswan, which would require the interior and irrigation ministers to facilitate security procedures.

He pointed out that the hotels sector is suffering a lack of tourists, that some hotels have consequently closed down, and that most hotels suffer problems relating to employment, wages and taxes.

Accommodation rates in Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada are expected to exceed 80 percent during January and February, but Sha'er warned that when foreign ministries issue alerts about traveling to Egypt, hotels have to pay out reimbursements for reservations that are canceled.

Most hotels were forced to decrease prices by 50 percent, he said, adding that because tourist numbers have receded by 30 percent, this year’s tourism losses will likely exceed 50 percent.

Sha’er revealed that the decrease in bookings from Britain to Egypt has reached 40 percent.

He also expressed fear that religious groups with anti-tourism stances will reach parliament. The travel agencies chamber has held several workshops with political parties to explain how the tourism industry can be affected by extremist opinions, he said.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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