As the Travel Weekly news team was finalising reports on the situation in Sharm el-Sheikh this week, a statement from the Egyptian tourism minister landed in my inbox.
It expressed his confidence in the recovery of tourism in Egypt and stressed that all Red Sea resorts were open.
Hisham Zaazou called for continued cooperation between Egypt and its travel partners around the world to resolve the current situation, which is crippling the country.
Tourism contributes more than 12% of Egypt’s gross domestic product and employs one in 10 people – and probably nine in every 10 in Sharm itself.
But with flights into Sharm from Britain, Russia, Ireland, Germany, Ukraine and Switzerland all suspended as I write, the immediate outlook looks bleak.
In the past, even after terrorist attacks in the capital Cairo, Sharm, which is more than 200 miles away, had remained relatively unaffected. Now it is empty – or as one agent put it this week: “Egypt is now completely off the map.”
It’s fantastic that the tourism minister is so confident in Egypt’s resilience, but it’s going to take more than discounted rates and marketing campaigns to bring people back.
EasyJet’s call for added security at ‘high-risk’ airports will do nothing to help combat the understandable sense of fear, given the circumstances – fuelled by headlines of fast-track routes bypassing security and fake explosives scanners at the airport.
The coincidence that the crisis was unfolding last week as the world came to London to WTM to sell its tourism wares went unremarked in the mainstream media.
But today, despite the optimism that such an exhibition generates, clear action must now be seen to guarantee security for travellers. Only then can Sharm be truly open for business.
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