Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hopes for Egypt's Tourism

Should be interesting to see if this pans out or not! Sorry for the blogging silence, I will have plenty to update shortly :) According to recent Tweets from Hurghada, the governor is hopeful and anticipating 100% occupancy rates in hotels in the Red Sea in the coming future. With TUI and other travel agencies resuming flights to Egypt, it may be a far stretch to hope for 100% but it is a positive sign that things may hopefully be on the uptick again in the devastated tourist regions such as Hurghada.

The article below, from, provides startling insight into just how much the tourism industry in Egypt has suffered.

Egypt's hotel occupancy rates continue to fall as the country's hospitality sector reels from the continued political turmoil.Cairo hotel room occupancy rates declined to 31% in the first half of this year from 39% in the first six months of 2012, while occupancy in Sharm Al-Sheikh was flat at 70% during the same period, according to a new survey.
Average room rates across the country's hospitality industry saw double-digit growth as the sector showed signs of life in the first six months of the year, according to management consultancy EY.
"Through the first half of 2013, both the Hurghada and Sharm El Shaikh hospitality markets witnessed a substantial increase in RevPAR compared H1 2012. Both resort hotspots achieved RevPAR growth of 57.6% and 27.6% respectively over the same period in 2012," EY said.
But that growth appears to have been short-lived as tourism figures have plunged in the past month and places like Luxor saw occupancy rates shrink to 5%.
As empty hotel rooms litter the coastlines and main Egyptian cities, the industry is yearning for the glory days when visitors from all over the world came to marvel at Egypt's archaeological riches.

Egyptians had taken special pride in showcasing their heritage and had built a sector that contributed a little over 12% of the economy and was a major job creator, with one in every eight Egyptian involved in the sector.
But the industry has faced one setback after another since the departure of Hosni Mubarak's government.

After massive upheavals, Mohammad Morsi's government came to power but its hardline religious mandate was always going to create friction with the free-wheeling and liberal hospitality sector.
While Morsi pledged not to impose the Muslim Brotherhood doctrine on the hospitality sector, his decision to nominate a member of the Islamist group Gamaa Islamiya -- which has been accused of killing scores of people in Luxor in 1997 - as the governor of Luxor, shocked the industry.
Luckily, that decision never came to pass as the Muslim Brotherhood government was ousted by the army in a largely popular coup two weeks later.
As Egypt's political players have taken turns at running the country, the uncertainty has hit the tourism industry hard.
Over the past two years, European governments have issued travel warnings, further exacerbating the situation.
In August, tourism minister Hisham Zaazou issued a YouTube video, urging governments to reconsider the negative advisories.
"The areas particularly in the Red Sea and Southern Sinai are quite safe and sound," the minister said in a video message aimed at travel agencies.
"One of the reasons I am saying that is in spite of the fact that there is a curfew in Egypt in many places, it does not include the Red Sea area, the Sharm El Sheikh and Southern Sinai area. That is a reflection that the government is comfortable [with receiving] any guest [and can guarantee that] they will] enjoy their time in Egypt, [which is] sound and safe. We accordingly, ask these different governments particularly in Europe... to lift even on a gradual basis the negative travel advisories."
Europeans constitute the majority of international visitors to Egypt, but a number of international travel agencies have shunned the country's historical treasures and sun-drenched resorts for the far safer shores of places like Morocco and the UAE.
As such, Egypt's international tourist arrivals have fallen from just over 14 million in 2010 to 11.2 million in 2012 - a decline of 32.4% in the past two years. It was even worse in 2011 when less than 10 million entered the country, as tourists balked at the sight of a political crisis unfolding in the country.
Tourism receipts have also fallen from USD 12.5 billion in 2010 to USD 9.9 billion in 2012, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
Not surprisingly, no new hotels were opened in the market in the second quarter of the year, but the Egyptian Hotel Association notes that at least 29 hotels with nearly 8,000 hotel rooms are under development in Cairo alone.
Some of these projects are likely to be delayed or pushed back, as tourists stay away.
Egyptian newspaper El-Masry Al-Youm reported that around 86 of the 248 Red Sea Governorate hotels have closed since the political troubles began. Shaker Abdel Azim, a board member of one of the tourist villages in Sharm El-Sheikh, says that as many as 35,000 Egyptians have lost their job as hotels closed down.
In an attempt to revive the industry, Egypt's interim authorities are partnering with airlines and travel agencies with attractive packages to lure customers, but the country needs more than a marketing campaign to bring tourists back.
It will take months of political stability and predictability of policy - as well as the absence of Egypt from the world's front pages - to assure tourists that the country is, once again, ready to welcome them.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bomb Attack Targets Interior Minister in Egypt

I'll follow up this post in the next couple of days with some of the awkwardly hilarious stories that have surfaced from it, but in the meantime to keep you updated here's the Reuter's article detailing today's bomb attack in Cairo that targetted the Interior Minister.

Egypt minister warns of terrorism wave after assassination attempt

Riot police move in to guard the site of an explosion near the house of Egypt's interior minister at Cairo's Nasr City district, September 5, 2013. Ibrahim survived an assassination attempt unscathed on Thursday when a car bomb blew up his convoy and he said afterwards that a wave of terrorism by opponents of the military-installed government was just beginning. REUTERS-Amr Abdallah Dalsh
CAIRO | Thu Sep 5, 2013 1:03pm EDT
(Reuters) - Egypt's interior minister survived an assassination attempt unscathed on Thursday when a car bomb blew up his convoy and gunmen strafed his vehicle, and he said later a wave of terrorism by opponents of the military-installed government was just beginning.
The minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, has been involved in overseeing a violent crackdown on supporters of Mohamed Mursi, the elected Islamist president who was overthrown two months ago by the army following mass protests against his rule.
No organization immediately claimed responsibility for the first attempt to kill an Egyptian minister since the 1990s, but it appeared to bear the hallmarks of an Islamist attack.
Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood - accused by the government of terrorism and inciting violence - condemned it.
But the sophisticated attack, possibly involving a suicide bomber with a large quantity of explosives, as well as a follow-up fusillade by two gunmen, showed the risk that Egypt's political crisis could spawn a wave of Islamist attacks like those in the 1980s and 1990s.
"What happened today is not the end but the beginning," Ibrahim said.
The Interior Ministry said the blast damage indicated that a 50-kg (110-pound) bomb was used.
Footage taken by a bystander and posted on YouTube showed a vehicle ablaze as gunshots rang out for two minutes. A distant, unidentified voice could also be heard defiantly shouting the Islamic rallying cry "Allahu Akbar! (God is Greatest!)"
A government video showed bullet holes all along the side of a white car identified as Ibrahim's, and security sources said police had killed two attackers.
A Reuters reporter saw blood and flesh scattered on the ground amid the charred wreckage of several cars.
"It is likely that it was a suicide explosion as a result of a high explosive device," an Interior Ministry statement said.
The head of Cairo security, Osama Al-Saghir, said the ambush began seconds after Ibrahim left his house in the capital's Nasr City on his way to work. A car driving ahead of the convoy exploded and the minister's armored vehicle also came under heavy gunfire, Saghir told the newspaper Al-Ahram.
Senior Brotherhood leader Amr Darrag issued a statement on behalf of the Brotherhood-led Anti-Coup Alliance saying it strongly condemned the attack.
Mursi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, was deposed on July 3. The new authorities have imposed a state of emergency and nightly curfews, and Mursi and most of the Brotherhood's leaders have been arrested.
More than 900 of its supporters have been killed, many of them when security forces stormed pro-Mursi protest camps in Cairo on August 14, and at least 2,000 rounded up. About 100 members of the security forces have also been killed in the political violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful resistance and has twice in the last week brought thousands onto the streets to denounce what it calls a coup against democracy.
Ibrahim said this week he had been told of plans to kill him and that "foreign elements" were involved. Armed forces chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave him an armored car, he said.
The ministry said 10 policemen had been wounded, some of them critically, as well as 11 civilians. Ibrahim said a police officer and a small child had both lost legs.
Many Egyptians have expressed support for the crackdown.
But the Brotherhood, which came to power in elections after the overthrow of general-turned-president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, says the allegations of terrorism are a pretext for neutralizing it and returning Egypt to the repression of the Mubarak era.
"This is sad," said bystander Ahmed Mahmoud, 32. "Innocent people have died today but the government needs to know that terrorism will bring more terrorism and violence will bring more violence.
"So when they use violence to disperse protesters, despite our opinion of those Brotherhood protesters, what did they expect to get in return? Peace and prosperity? They will only get more violence."
An Islamist insurgency in the 1990s destabilized Egypt and badly damaged the tourism industry, one of its economic mainstays, which has again been ravaged by the upheavals of the past two years.
Islamist militants, who had taken advantage of a security vacuum left by Mubarak's fall to establish themselves in the relatively lawless North Sinai, have stepped up attacks on security forces in the area since Mursi was toppled.
Gamaa Islamiya, a group involved in 1990s attacks that has since renounced violence, denied any link to Thursday's assault.
"These are new, small, unknown networks, independent of any organization," said Kamal Habib, an expert on Islamist groups. "This was expected. We said it a million times."
Nasr City was the scene of Egypt's most famous assassination - Anwar Sadat, Mubarak's predecessor as president, was killed by Islamist militants on October 6, 1981.

(Additional reporting by Tom Perry, Shaimaa Fayed, Ali Abdellati and Asma Alsharif; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Mark Heinrich)