Hotels will be closed down immediately if it is proven that their employees sexually harassed tourists, said Minister of Tourism Hesham Zazou.
“We [the Ministry] have received reports of around 150 cases of sexual harassment committed against tourists,” he said, during an appearance on the Al-Hayah satellite tourism. “There have been three rape cases reported.”
“I am determined to close hotels where sexual harassment has taken place because this behaviour has an impact on the country’s reputation,” he continued.
There has been a spike in the number of sexual harassment incidents against tourists in cities, Zazou said, especially in hotels in Sharm Al-Sheikh.
Zazou said he has now taken “critical measures” to make sure Egypt does not lose its status as a prime tourist destination. “And since this relates to Egypt’s reputation, governing rules must be strict,” he said.
“Various foreign travel agencies have complained about the inappropriate behaviour of some hotel staff towards tourists,” Zaazou added. “The agencies are now threatening to cut off their dealings with Egypt because of the increase in the number of women tourists sexually harassed.”
Hani El-Shaer, deputy head of the Chamber of Hotels for the Red Sea, disagreed with the Ministry’s decision. “How is it fair to punish a whole building, along with investors, management and working staff, because of one harasser?” he asked.
“Any harasser should simply be fired immediately,” he continued.
“Of course we are against sexual harassment and we have been fighting it during the last five years,” he said. “But, unfortunately, tourists don’t help officials to combat this phenomenon. Most tourists prefer not to fill out records against harassers because of the complicated procedures in police stations.”
“I would therefore suggest that the tourism police act like ‘middlemen’ between tourists and prosecution services and regular police forces to facilitate procedures,” he continued.
The number of tourists coming to Egypt has decreased drastically since the 25 January revolution in 2011. This has been attributed to political, social and economic instability throughout the country during this period.
Tourism revenues have plunged by 30%, according to Ministry figures.
The tourism sector peaked in 2010 when, according to State Information Service (SIS) figures, tourism revenues accounted for 20% of the country’s foreign exchange reserves and accounted directly and indirectly for 11.3% of GDP.
Television presenter Gaber Al-Qarmouti said on the ONTV satellite channel that “Egypt has been internationally shamed due to the phenomenon of sexual harassment directed towards visitors to the country”.