The majority of Egyptian tourism stakeholders have welcomed the government directive requiring travellers to Egypt to present negative PCR test when they arrive in the country.
Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly issued a directive, effective as of 1 September, prohibiting entry to all arrivals, whether by land, sea or air, without a prior PCR test. The test, used to detect the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), has to be undertaken within 72 hours before travel.
Commenting on the decision, Chairperson of the Egyptian Hotels Association (EHA) in the Red Sea, Alaa Akel, said the decision is acceptable and comes as part of the nationwide precautionary measures to combat the virus. He added that the majority of visitors currently visiting Egypt are from countries such as Belarus and Ukraine, which still have high COVID-19 infection rates.
“There are some problems in implementing the test, including the logistical complications for tourists who would need to have the results within 72 hours before arrival in Egypt,” Akel said. “There is also the expensive cost of the PCR in some countries, such as in Ukraine where it ranges between $20 and $30.”
He suggested some modifications to the decision, including the need to invest in laboratory facilities at airports that can undertake the tests. This would cover those travellers who have been unable to take the test in their countries, helping to solve the problem of logistics.
Abdel Fattah Al-Assi, Assistant Minister of Tourism and Antiquities for monitoring tourism facilities, said negotiations have recently taken place between tour operators and hotels to make the process easier and smoother. He noted that the two sides have also discussed sharing the cost of the PCR test between them.
Akel said that the full ramifications decision will be revealed in the next two days, as a meeting of the Scientific Committee to Combat Coronavirus is set to take place on Thursday.
For his part, Elhamy El-Zayat, former head of Egypt’s Federation of Tourism Chambers, told Daily News Egypt that this decision is a must.
“When Egypt says it follows such rules, it gives a message that we, as a country, understand the importance of health, so we definitely need to do it,” he said.
“One infection can give us a very bad reputation, so it is better to be on the safe side and weigh the economic benefits of implementing the mandatory PCR test against what we will lose if this decision is not taken,” El-Zayat said.
“We are part of a global economy just as we are part of a global crisis, the things Egypt is doing to attract tourists are what other competitive destinations are doing too, so we have to think and act like others, and many countries are demanding the PCR test,” according to Asser Sultan, Egyptian Travel Agents Association (ETAA) General Assembly member and General Manager of Egyptian Valley Tours.
Sultan said that this decision is very important as tourists will now change their holiday destination depending on the health situation in the country, rather than on its attractiveness. He added that the implementation of mandatory PCR testing restores trust amongst tourists to travel to that destination.
“It also protects tourism employees, as currently the virus in more prevalent in other countries,” he said, adding, “But I think it will be better if the tourist did the PCR test in the airport in Egypt.”
Many of Egypt’s tourism sector companies and operators have requested further details on what PCR testing in the country will entail. The majority of countries worldwide have have welcomed Egypt’s decision on the matter, including Italy, Germany, Japan, Belgium, the US, and the Netherlands.