Italian tourism bookings to Egypt during the upcoming summer season have dropped by 90 percent in comparison to last year, according to the head of Foreign Tourism at the Egyptian Tourism Authority (ETA) Mohamed Abdel Gabbar.
According to Abdel Gabbar, the ETA has cooperated with Italian travel agency Meridana to arrange a weekly flight from Milan to Sharm El Sheikh for EUR 112 per ticket starting from March, in addition to direct flights to Cairo for EUR 240 per ticket in May.
The number of Italians in Egypt had reached 1 million tourists in 2010, with the majority of them visiting the Red Sea resort towns of Sharm El Sheikh and Marsa Alam.
Meanwhile, the chief tax collector in Egypt’s Red Sea governorate told privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm that tourism-related tax revenues have dropped 80 percent in the governorate in the wake of the downing of a Russian passenger plane over Sinai last October.
Tourism was once the flagship of Egypt’s economy but a string of security-related events, including the “accidental” killing of 12 Mexican tourists and their Egyptian guides in the Western Desert in September 2015, as well as the downing of the Russian plane, have significantly affected the flow of tourists in Egypt.
Most recently, Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni was found dead on the Cairo-Alexandria highway on the outskirts of Cairo, after “mysteriously disappearing” nine days earlier. Egyptian and Italian autopsies on the students body have shown signs of torture.
Egyptian authorities are currently investigating the 28-year-old’s death but officials have remained tight-lipped about developments in the case.
Last year, Egypt’s Tourism Ministry announced the signing of a USD 66 million contract with advertising agency J. Walter Thompson (JWT) to launch a campaign encouraging tourists to visit Egypt.
However, the ETA has decided to suspend the campaign in Italy for one month, pending the results of the investigation into Regeni’s killing, Al Borsa reported.
Approximately four million Egyptians work in the tourism sector, which accounts for 12.6 percent of the country’s total employment and about 12 percent of the economy.
The drop in tourism revenues is also one of the main factors contributing to the country’s current foreign currency crisis. Since the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak, foreign reserves have gone down more than 50 percent, from USD 36 billion to USD 16.477 billion as of last month.