Opinion

The Death of Tourism

The Death of Tourism

By Mohamed Khairat, Founder, EgyptianStreets.com

bus
An image that will likely be circulated millions of times across the media.

On a day when Egypt is hosting two major international events aimed at boosting tourism, the International Taekwondo Championship and the Cupa Coca Cola at the Pyramids, a devastating terrorist attack has rocked the sunny Red Sea resort of Taba on Egypt’s border with Israel, killing at least three South Korean tourists and an Egyptian bus driver.

Despite the political and social turbulence Egypt has witnessed in the past three years, the Red Sea and South Sinai have been declared as “safe havens” for tourists by Egypt’s government officials. Just hours before today’s deadly attack, Egypt’s state media had proudly declared that thousands of Russians were currently sun bathing along the coast. Yet, with hotels reaching just one percent occupancy across certain cities, the latest attacks are likely to significantly impact the tourism industry in Egypt.

The death of tourism. While it may sound pessimistic and harsh, the phrase could not be further from the truth. From the frightening attacks in down town Cairo that damaged the most important Islamic Arts museum in the world, to constant bombings targeting security installations across the country, tourism had already been on the verge of bleeding out. Egypt’s tourism industry, as one Twitter user pointed out, was clinically dead, and today’s attacks simply pulled off the plug.

An Egyptian at the Pyramids, frustrated at the lack of tourists.
An Egyptian at the Pyramids, frustrated at the lack of tourists.

While Egypt has in the past faced numerous terrorist attacks, including the Luxor Massacre in 1997 and the bombing of the Taba Hilton Hotel in 2004, recent attacks are a representation of a country struggling to restore law and order. In previous decades, tourism was quick to bounce back after horrific events, but this is no longer the case. As Egypt’s passionate Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou accurately stated, “you’re talking about ghost cities.” Once the world’s most visited sites, Egypt’s history is now left for the ghosts.

“But Egypt is safe!” proclaimed a foreign friend who recently visited the turbulent country. To some extent, that is true: violence tends to be limited to certain hot pockets, and does not largely impact popular tourism attractions, or even the daily lives of many Egyptians. You can walk through the hidden alleys of Khan El-Khalili and be so immersed in the culture and history that you forget there is blood being shed in the same city. You can stand in the shadows of the Great Pyramids of Giza or the towering Abu Simbel Temples and not even realize that this is the same country that has had three different Presidents in three years.

We can forget, but we will always remember. At the back of our minds, walking down the Nile’s Corniche or in a busy market at Sharm El-Sheikh, that little voice in our heads, coupled with graphic media coverage, is telling us that we should be scared. And we are scared. Not only because of the potential risks we face, but because a civilization as old as Egypt is on the verge of rapid deterioration into becoming a city only visited by ghosts.

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  • It is not just the violence that puts this Australian from visiting Egypt again. It is the dirt. I saw cleaners cleaning the streets early in the morning but within a couple of hours the streets were strewn with rubbish again. I saw truck loads of plastic rubbish being dumped into the channels of the Nile. The Pharoanic monuments stink of horse shit. The Egyptian trains are dirty with windows broken. There is no system of clean public toilets throughout the country. It is the chaos of the traffic in Cairo. It is the apartheid system of Egyptian versus Foreigner hotels. Foreigner ferries on the Nile should be available to all Egyptians. Most of the trinkets sold around the toursist sites seem to be Chinese made rebranded as Egyptian. The train service closes for one day, and for the next week you can only get tickets on the black market.
    The whole concept of tourism in Egypt needs to be revamped. In Turkey most of the sites are populated by Turks proud of their own history and culture; and with this pride they keep the sites clean. In this context visitors do not feel a breed apart but sharing a rich culture. The same should be for Egypt.

  • Dave M

    Aussie here: I’d like to visit Egypt, but the violence is out of control and a very real hazard. It doesn’t take much to spook tourists from a one off incident, but they always come back, however sustained violence creates an atmosphere and a reputation (think Bali, Indonesia) that will take years to overcome (once things eventually settle that is). It’s a terrible situation for the innocent Egyptian people caught up in the middle.

  • Yorgo

    It is not only the single acts of terrorism that deters tourists. The way the state behaves with its corrupt judiciary is a constant reminder to keep away. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/apr/10/peter-greste-al-jazeera-egypt-trial-journalists-footage
    This article says it all

  • Jim Francis

    Unfortunately, those fanatics and extremists who are causing all of this by their terrorism and violence, do no seem to understand or care. They are not smart enough to understand that tourists visiting Egypt bring with them a way that millions of Egyptians can earn a living and raise their children. From hotel workers to souvenir merchants. All those Egyptians are unemployed and unable to feed their families now.

  • Reblogged this on Operation Egypt.

  • Tourism economies are slave systems…

  • This is heartbreaking. I don’t ever want to be stopped from flying to egypt, but if this continues, the airlines will stop flying there. My heart goes out to those people who have lost their lives today. May they rest in peace.

  • Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  • Anonymous

    The mounting xenophobia and ever present mysogynistic undertones and sexual harrassment doesn’t help the tourist industry recover either.

  • It sounds like the phrase, “death of tourism” is actually right on the truth. See the second sentence of paragraph 2.

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