Opinion: Egypt tourism 'will emerge stronger from elections'

Opinion: Egypt tourism 'will emerge stronger from elections'

It's a pivotal time for Egypt, but there are encouraging signs it will emerge from its revolution with a stronger and more sustainable tourism industry than before, writes Nikki White.

This week marks another pivotal moment in Egypt’s history, with the first presidential election after the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

The demonstrations in the main urban centres that heralded the dawn of the Arab Spring meant many holidaymakers were hesitant about visiting. The latest figures show UK arrivals in 2011 were at their lowest levels for five years. In the past, British holidaymakers have been quick to return after troubles, but this time things have been different.

However, there are some encouraging signs and we have good reasons to believe that Egypt will emerge from the revolutions with a stronger and more sustainable tourism industry than before.

All the political parties have indicated that they recognise the key importance of tourism to the country’s economy. With one in eight of the population employed in tourism, which accounts for 11% of GDP, the importance of tourism cannot be underestimated.

One of the most heartbreaking effects of the fall in visitor numbers has been the impact on those who have lost their jobs.

The troubles may also have highlighted the importance of sustainability to Egypt and preserving their natural resources. Egypt has already shown strong commitment to sustainability, especially at World Travel Market last year.

One of the most exciting areas in which Egypt can excel and set an example is by exploiting the sun. Hoteliers have shown an encouraging openness to harnessing solar power.

Looking to the future, solar power has largely untapped potential in North Africa and the Middle East region, not just to power air-conditioning and refrigeration units, but to fuel desalination plants. But none of this though will mean anything unless holidaymakers return.

Last year the challenge was to get the message out that the Red Sea resorts are a good eight-hour drive from Cairo with holidaymakers perfectly safe and largely unaffected by the demonstrations that were unfolding in Tahir Square.

In this we were helped by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which never advised against travel to Sharm el-Sheik and the other resorts along the Sinai Peninsula.

The challenge remains to stress that Egypt is a profoundly welcoming country that is embracing change and has the potential for a sustainable economic and environmental future in tourism that supports so many livelihoods.

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