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Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Impact of the disasters on tourism

A number of security setbacks hit our already ailing tourism sector hard: We hadn’t recovered from the Metrojet attack last year when Paris-Cairo MS 804 flight crashed on 19 May. The Civil Aviation ministry announced explosives traces on bodies of the victims, though nothing conclusive had been reached to the causes. The attack on St. Peter and St. Paul church which killed 27 threatened to jeopardize all efforts to prove Egypt is safe this year. Coupled with the Cyprus’ EgyptAir flight “lovejacking” and fallout from the Regeni killing, 2016 continued to look dismal for the sector. Latest figures show over 44% drop in arrivals year-on-year in October 2016 to 506,200 tourists. Tourism receipts halved in FY15-16 reaching USD 3.77 bn.

What is the government doing about it? The government pursued a multi-pronged approach to tourism: beefing up security, incentives, diversifying target markets, and ratcheting up the promotions campaign. Diversification looked to markets outside Western Europe and Russia and will focus regionally on the GCC, with a number of agreements with Saudi having been signed. Egypt also moved to strengthen domestic tourism to fill the gap. Incentives which will be put in place will include figuring out a way to implement an electronic visa system. More importantly, incentives to charter flights were amended, with the government offering to payouts and fee exemptions to flights with an 80% seat occupancy rates who bring in regular tours from the EU. JWT announced in September they are targeting 12 countries with their USD 20 mn tourism campaign. The government hopes to attract 9 mn tourists by the end of 2017 and up to 10 mn by the end of 2018

Some (brief) good news: Egypt was marked safe last month by the US State Department in its next-to-last travel advisory, only to have a warning re-imposed earlier this week. A few direct flights were back like direct flights from Heathrow to Luxor in October. The World Travel and Tourism Council and the UN’s World Tourism Organization urged last month UK Prime Minister Theresa May to lift the ban on flights to Sharm El Sheikh for UK-based airlines. And EgyptAir passed late last month the International Civil Aviation Organization’s inspection with a score 20% higher than the global average.

Things to look for in 2017: The lifting on flight bans from Russia, the UK, and Germany will be rely on a concerted diplomatic effort on Egypt’s part, but will ultimately depend on how successful Egypt is at getting the security situation under control and minimizing these incidents. How successful Egypt is at allowing international airlines to repatriate their profits will be crucial to stop them from exiting Egypt as KLM has shown us with its announcement to pull out next year. The industry will continue to push for more debt-relief from the CBE and the Finance Ministry and will continue to lobby the latter to postpone implementing the value-added tax on the sector.

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