(AsiaNews/Agencies) - For more than a year, Red Sea resorts have struggled with
near empty beaches, silent hotels, shops and malls as well as idle barmen and
waiters. What was once the pearl of Egypt's tourist industry, now is but a
shadow of its former self since Mubarak's fall 17 months ago. Tourist executives
are pessimistic, and look with fear at the new Egypt under the Muslim
Brotherhood. Meanwhile, Egypt's new rulers have not yet said what they would do
with alcoholic beverages, bikinis, mixed swimming pools and dance clubs.
business has shrunk by at least 70 per cent in the past year," said Waleed,
a businessman in Sharm el-Sheik." "Egypt," he explained, "lives on tourism. I think Morsi wants to
islamise tourism in the long run, but for the next few years he won't do anything
because people need to eat."
the Brotherhood's 81-page election programme does not mention beach tourism, which
brings in the most tourist dollars by far. Officials in the movement have said
they have other priorities for now, dismissing the sector as marginal with few
jobs. However, the party does promise to encourage alternatives-cultural,
ecological and medical tourism, and desert excursions.
professionals disagree. They say beach holidays make up as much as 80 per cent
of Egyptian tourism. Before the current drop, the country was a serious rival
to countries like Spain and Turkey as a sunny getaway for millions of
to 15 per cent of Egypt's workforce caters to the needs of foreign visitors,
directly or indirectly. Tourism accounts for 11 per cent of gross domestic
product and a quarter of foreign exchange earnings, economist Samir Makary
said. Most importantly, it has offered jobs to a fast-growing population that
stagnating manufacturing was unable to absorb.
Arab spring unfolded, tourists began staying away, drastically reducing tourism-related
In the first
five months of this year, the number of visitors to Egypt was down 26 per cent
from 2010. Earnings dropped by 24 per cent.
in addition to the
political instability is another factor affecting tourism. Regular demonstrations
and clashes between police and protesters, which have caused 800 deaths, have
scared off tourists.
agents and customers from the West are concerned and nervous about the safety
of travel in Egypt," said Mimi Weisband, Crystal Cruises Public Relations Vice
operators looking at the other side of the Red Sea, many warn of the
consequences of a radical islamisation of Egypt.
Arabia has the best virgin beaches, with soft sands. They have plenty of
airports and good roads," one industry
executive said. However, "not a single tourist
goes" there, "except for the Muslim pilgrimage" to Makkah.