Sunday, March 16, 2014

Egypt: Tourism Declines Dramatically, Tourists of All Nationalities Don't Want to Go Home in a Coffin

According to http://www.english.ahram.org.eg, the number of foreign tourists visiting Egypt in the first two months of 2014 has dropped 28% to 1.3 million in comparison to January and February 2013.

The majority of the decline in visits is predominantly attributed to Middle Eastern countries, specifically Syria, Libya and Bahrain.

Visits from Arab countries fell 58%, mostly depicting an 85% drop from Syria, 54% from Libya and a 19% decline in visits from Bahrain.

In contrast, tourists originating from the United Arab Emirates increased by 38% adding 3,088 visitors in January and February 2014. Keep in mind, though, that the UAE has only 9.2 million, so 3,000 visitors is actually not very significant.

Tourists visiting from Europe declined by 24% compared to those in January and February 2013.

This period also saw 42% less tourists from Asia and the Pacific as compared to the same period in the previous year. 

COMMENT: The tourism sector, which accounts for roughly 9% of GDP, has received several blows since a popular uprising forced president Hosni Mubarak to step down in 2011.

As we continue into 2014,  prolonged periods of unrest and sporadic violence have led many countries to warn their citizens against traveling to Egypt. And understandably. 

Anyone traveling to Egypt for tourism should avoid the country, largely due to the difficulty in finding tour operators and in circumventing frequent demonstrations, protests and snarled traffic congestion as tourists attempt to find calm. 

I'll be very honest with you. I've been forecasting criminal trends and acts of terrorism in foreign countries for the better part of 30 years. In that time, I'm rarely wrong, largely because people pay me to be correct. If I'm wrong they pay me much, much less.

Yet, tour operators usually don't get professional advice from people like me, largely because they like to hear "yes" far more often than "no."


Let me give you three examples of foreigners killed in high-risk destinations at a time when developed nations were discouraging travel. Two of the attacks occurred in Libya while the other took place in Egypt:

The first shooting that resulted in the death of a British citizen and a New Zealander who were shot and killed while having a romantic picnic together on January 2, 2014, some 40 miles west of Tripoli:  

Title of Posting: Libya: Update-- Homicide of British, Kiwi Couple Says to Tourists: "Go Away"
Date of Posting: January 5, 2014

Title of Posting: Libya: British, Kiwi Couple Shot, Killed Execution-Style Near Mellitah
Date of Posting: January 3, 2014

The second shooting resulted in the death of a French engineer, 49, who was overseeing the upgrading of a hospital in Benghazi:

Title of Posting: Libya: Foreigners Still Radioactive, Series of Attacks Send a Message to Visitors: "Go Away" 
Date of Posting: March 2, 2014

The third incident resulted in the death of two South Korean tourists and an Egyptian bus driver and injuries to nine South Korean tourists on the Sinai Peninsula on February 16, 2014, as a result of an IED detonating in or near the tour bus:

Title of Posting: Egypt: Update--February 16 Detonation In/Near Tour Bus Claims Lives of Two South Koreans, Egyptian Driver, Injuries to Nine
Date of Posting: February 23, 2014

Title of Posting: Egypt: Bus Detonation in or Near Tourist Bus in Sinai Kills Three, Injures Nine
Date of Posting: February 16, 2014

It must be emphasized that credible terrorist groups who have delivered on their promises in the past have said they will target tourists. Such threats cannot be ignored when foreign ambassadors accredited to Egypt have a responsibility to protect the welfare of their citizens.

Egypt attracted 14.7 million visitors in 2010, a record high, suggesting that the results of the 2011 Arab Spring marred the reputations of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and  leftist President Barack Obama as those who stood by and did absolutely nothing to stop the Muslim Brotherhood from taking over the country.

Worse, when militants raided the US Consulate and CIA facility in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, both Clinton and President Obama were noticeably missing in action. The result: Four dead Americans, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens.

On Clinton's and Obama's watch, a conscious US Department of Defense decision was made NOT to rescue the brave Americans, undoubtedly the first time ever that the US failed to rescue Americans in Harm's Way.

The end result is that the Muslim Brotherhood is hardly going peacefully into the night, leaving foreign tourists at risk, which is why so many foreign embassies have urged their citizens that tourism in the Land of the Pharaohs brings with it considerable risks.

It is very likely that tourism in Egypt will not change until one central government has definitive control of political events in Egypt.

Tourism minister Hisham Zaazou oversaw initiatives to encourage domestic tourism through affordable travel packages. Zaazou also hosted a delegation of British experts in Sharm El-Sheikh to assess the safety of the Sinai's resorts. The jury remains out as to the results of the British threat assessment.

In the interim, and seemingly grasping at straws to restore tourists to Egypt, the country has begun offering the Indian government incentives, yet does the leadership of the government not realize that ALL foreign tourists are at risk?

If you take the tourism minister's logic to its ultimate conclusion, Egypt is essentially saying: "We don't care about the travel risk; its the travelers we want!"

Seemingly, does that mean that the Egyptians want tourists that return time and time again or only those that die on Egyptian soil? 

What Egypt must do as a government, shaky as it is, is create a stable political environment so that foreign tourists can feel safe from acts of terrorism.

Admittedly, India potentially offers Egypt millions of tourists annually. Yet, at what cost? How many Indians have to be maimed or killed for India to realize that discounts are not helpful if Indian tourists fly back to Delhi in the cargo hold.
The Second “India on the Banks of the Nile” Festival begins on April 1, 2014 and will continue for three weeks. Yet, the Egyptians will soon realize that India values family and security just as much as the Europeans.

If Indian tourists are terrorized, maimed or killed while in Egypt, they, too, will leave as quickly as they arrived.

Egypt hopes to attract one million tourists by September 2017. They could be very, very wrong unless they stabilize an unpredictable, perilous Egypt and suppress acts of terrorism FIRST.