Egyptian tourism has never been in a more difficult position than it is now, even in the most difficult situations when bombs blew up Sharm El-Sheikh shaking the Sinai Peninsula.
An international coalition is now standing against it. Britain violated all international norms and protocols and announced strict measures to evacuate its nationals from Sharm El-Sheikh in light of the Russian plane crash. France shortly followed. But the hit arrived from the Russian ally, having found itself helpless after losing more than two hundred victims without taking action against Egypt. Hence the decision was taken to halt flights to Egypt, not only Sharm El-Sheikh. A strike so decisive, that it hit the tourism industry at large.
In contrast, agencies responsible for promoting tourism in Egypt have not moved one step. Special Investigations regarding the black-box were not satisfactory, but became opaque, animating many prospects not in favour of the Egyptian side.
Perhaps each body has its own accounts and potentials. The best bet, as it has always been, is on the people who see their governments’ decisions as unbinding. The people will go for what they loved, a place, a person, a movie, or a book. Those people love and rebel in stubbornness.
People have their own manuals. Those who studied and understood them can foresee their reactions. The bet here in Egypt, and abroad, remains on the people, not the international relations and the results of official talks. The bet begins with the exploitation and use of Egyptian solidarity at the grassroots level to stimulate domestic tourism and make Sharm El-Sheikh the top direction, and to provide flights at prices less than those offered to foreign tourists.
The betting should be through opening up the means of communication with the people who love coming to Egypt. We should open new markets and prepare social media campaigns to promote Egyptian tourism, away from tours.
I share a love story with Sharm El-Sheikh, especially for my last trip two days ago, and another more than 20 years ago. In brief, when I was a university student, I decided to spend two weeks in this charming city. After my visit, I realised I want to stay longer. My friends wanted the same, and we all wanted to spend the rest of our three-month summer vacation in this promising touristic city.
We spread out and applied to work at the hotels and resorts of the city. Some of us were successful, including me. I worked in a front desk, where we spent 10 hours working and the rest of the night enjoying Sharm’s nightlife. We met foreigners who loved the city. They used to come often, and others preferred to stay and invest there. We spent two months there, and we still talk about the time when we meet. Tourists found joy in diving trips and sailing. In Egyptians, they found honest love that they could never find in their friends. We loved dealing with them. Some of them worked in the city’s hotels and resorts, to enjoy working among Egyptians. Most of them were Italians, long before the Russians fell in love with the city, taking the lion’s share in the city’s occupancy rates.
Two days ago, I went to the same city carrying our memories that stretched for 20 years. It had the same warmth and beauty. The city was even more entertaining and the nightlife had grown. It was as if God was showing us beauty, and we humans decided to follow the steps and bring more beauty to the city. Everyone we met rejected the decisions of their governments that try to condemn the wonderful city. We found them rebels, unconvinced by their countries’ justifications. They always repeated the same: “We feel sorry for the victims, however, those incidents happen everywhere. Governments have the right to make decisions and we have the right to approve or reject.”
Those are the people. They are inherently stubborn rebels. They love breaking the international rules of the game.
Every official must exploit an opportunity that may be much greater than the crisis. They must walk in the footsteps of madness and stubbornness. They need to remind those who once fell in love with the city of peace, and use those memories to encourage other people. They should utilise the Egyptian unity for the best of this wonderful city. They need to bring in our internal tourism, to provide financial and moral support by thinking outside the box.
Emad El-Sayed is an Egyptian journalist and the Editor of Daily News Egypt.