Egypt’s tourism sector faces yet another blow if protests planned for 30 June turn violent, say Ministry of Tourism officials.
“The sector is improving inch by inch, but the planned protests are a risk,” said Hatem Mounir, general secretary of tourism buildings in the Red Sea. “If anything goes wrong, it will really affect us this time since this is the peak season of tourism in the country.”
Several opposition parties and groups demanding early presidential elections are calling for peaceful demonstrations on 30 June, which marks the anniversary of President Mohamed Morsi’s first year in rule.
The tourism sector, accounting for 11.3% of the country’s GDP, has been negatively affected by frequent protests and violence since the 2011 revolution, leading to a fall in foreign currency reserves.
However Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said tourism will not be affected by protests as long as they remain peaceful.
Meanwhile, tourism agencies are expecting a sharp fall in the number of tourists if protests end in violence.
Beach resorts on the Red Sea have seen an uptick in numbers as many visitors have turned their backs on ancient monuments in the capital.
“Looking at the bright side, the planned protests that will take place this month will mainly take place in Cairo and not in the Red Sea, which will not harm touristic spots like Hurghada or Sharm El-Sheikh,” said Mounir.
He stated that the number of local and foreign tourists are slowly picking up at coastal resorts.
“Those who are working in tourism in the Red Sea will find it difficult to leave their workplace in order to protest in Cairo, and so far nothing is planned to happen in the Red Sea,” he said.
Last week, the American embassy in Cairo issued a warning to US nationals in Egypt to exercise caution and avoid visiting the Giza Pyramids.
The embassy emailed nationals that it had become aware of an increasing number of incidents of “criminal conduct” around the area, citing an incident in which individuals had pounded on the doors of a vehicle carrying tourists.
“These warnings create nothing but confusion and sometimes it really sticks with the people abroad, affecting arrivals,” Mounir said.
Last week, a bus carrying Mexican tourists overturned on the Sinai Peninsula before bursting into flames, killing at least six tourists.
In February, 19 tourists died in a hot air balloon crash near the ancient town of Luxor, a popular tourist destination. Since the balloon crash, hot air balloon companies in the area reported average daily losses of $60,000.
The accident prompted the government to temporarily ban balloon rides.
Following the Luxor incident, the World Economic Forum Travel and Competitiveness Index listed Egypt last in terms of security and safety last March. The report, which included 140 countries, ranked Egypt behind Pakistan, Yemen and Chad.
Despite these incidents, the ministry of tourism reported last month that tourism revenues grew by 14% in 2012.
The ministry said the percentage was calculated via the world tourism barometer, which monitors the tourism movements and trends from all around the world.
The number of tourists plummeted to 9.5 million in 2011 compared to 2010 where the number of tourists recorded was 14 million.
Experts claim that the ministry’s figures are “questionable” due to the frequent street protests and sexual harassment stories recounted by foreigners.