CAIRO: In the last year, Sinai’s largest resorts, Sharm El Sheikh and the beach resort of Dahab were targeted by suicide bombers seeking to de-rail Egypt’s economy by targeting the country’s vital tourist industry. Tourism in Egypt is directly linked to the national economy, making tourists a symbolic target for terrorists operating in the region aiming to stop economic growth in Egypt.
In July 2005, 64 people were killed in coordinated bomb attacks against hotels in Sharm El-Sheikh. Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad carried out the attacks according to the Egyptian Interior Ministry.
In April 2006 a separate attack in the Red Sea resort of Dahab killed 20 Egyptians and three foreigners .Two percent of all bookings to Egypt were cancelled in the wake of the Dahab suicide bomb attacks, with most cancellations coming from tourists in Germany and Denmark.
Concern from the government and the local security forces in the regions that attract large amounts of tourists has led Egypt’s Interior Ministry to employ protective measures, including a security fence to be built around the outskirts of Sharm El Sheikh.
The tourism industry in Egypt is becoming more lucrative year on year, providing $7.2 billion in the 2006 calendar year compared with $6.4 billion netted in the previous year. The number of tourists in Egypt is estimated to come close to 10 million, up from 8.5 million the year before, despite the warnings of terrorism from western governments, tourists are not being deterred from visiting.
The Egyptian Interior Ministry aims to make Egypt a ‘safe place to travel’ for tourists in an attempt to keep the economy thriving, hoping that the number of tourists visiting will to continue to increase.
Egypt is seeking to attract 16 million tourists in the next six years, according to the country s Ministry of Investment. To achieve this goal, the country needs to build 50,000 hotel rooms annually, requiring an annual investment of $1 billion. Foreign direct investment into Egypt surged to $3.9 billion in the fiscal year that ended June 30, from $407 million in the previous fiscal year, according to the website of the Egyptian central bank.
American tourists are continuing to come to Egypt as the country experience double-digit growth from the U.S. over 2005. In 2006, an estimated 98,388 Americans are expected to visit Egypt, an increase of 20.9 percent over last year s 81,398 for the same period.
The composition of tourists has changed with an increase in the number of Arab tourists replacing any potential shortfall from European tourists, said Hany Genena, a Cairo-based economist at EFG-Hermes Holding.
It seems that people travelling to Egypt are undeterred by the bombings, as Egypt is experiencing a yearly growth of 17.6 percent more tourists visiting the country. On average, a growth of about 15 percent is expected. More Arabs are visiting Egypt than before as the Egyptian General Authority for Tourism Promotion is targeting visitors from neighbouring countries in a push to maximise Egypt’s role as a tourism-based economy.