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.

How Egypt's New Space Agency Will Benefit The Poor
Why Al-Sisi Should Not Be Egypt's Next President

Subscribe to our newsletter


Opinion

More in Opinion

“I Can’t Handle a Female Boss!” The Internalized Misogyny of Egyptian Office Life

Amina Zaineldine23 October 2021

Egypt Only Belongs to My Parents; It Never Belonged to Me

Mirna Abdulaal1 October 2021

What I Learned as a Door Selector at a High-End Bar in Cairo

Moustafa Daly10 September 2021

Why Charity NFTs Won’t Save Palestine

Mona Abdou21 August 2021

10 Lessons I Learned from Creating the Egyptian Streets Podcast

Noran Morsi16 July 2021
Cairo Skyline Abortion Egypt

I Had an ‘Illegal’ Abortion in Egypt

Egyptian Streets3 June 2021

From Cairo with Love: My Fabricated Coming of Age

Noran Morsi31 May 2021

Khalli Balak Min Zizi: Taking Egypt to Therapy

Omar Abo Mosallam13 May 2021