- After the brutal terrorist attack in Egypt's famous Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday, national authorities, locals and international institutions urge tourists to remain confident in Egypt. If not, the Islamist terrorists will have won a major victory, causing economic and political instability in Egypt.
Saturday's terrorism attack on the tourism infrastructure of Sharm el-Sheikh has caused at least 83 deaths and several hundred wounded - most of the victims being both Egyptian and Muslim. Authorities assume that extremist Islamist groups are behind the attack - two local Islamist already claim to have executed the brutal action. Egyptian police however still do not want to rule out foreign groups.
The attack on Sharm el-Sheikh - the worst in Egypt since 1981 - caused an immediate rush of tourists to leave the country and of cancellations. Several Western countries over the weekend advised their citizens to avoid going to Egypt due to the current security situation, an advice that caused evacuations of some nationals.
For Egyptian authorities and the many Egyptians making their livelihood out of the tourism sector, this reaction was the worst possible outcome of a terrorist attack. While some Western tourists told the press they wanted to leave Sharm el-Sheikh because they felt it unethical to be on holiday in a place where the hosts mourned their deaths, locals flocked to European media saying the opposite: "Please don't go, we depend on you."
Egyptian Minister of Tourism Ahmed el Maghraby during the weekend noted that he was facing a possible disaster for the country's important tourism industry. Mr Maghraby, on an official visit to Beijing, appealed to Western tourists and affirmed that these attacks would "not succeed in stopping the peoples of the civilised world from going about their lives normally, including travelling and vacationing."
Recalling the repeated series of bombings that had taken place in London, Mr Maghraby said that terrorism had become "a global phenomenon" and that no country was immune from it. As to the effect these bombings would have on the tourism industry, the Minister admitted that these incidents might have a negative impact but he expressed hope that it would be short-term.
International players emphasised the need for solidarity with Egypt so that the terrorists would not achieve victory. The UN's World Tourism Organisation (WTO) today offered Egypt its full support in helping the country "to surmount the negative impact of the bombings on its flourishing tourism industry."
WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli in a letter to Minister Maghraby said WTO had gained extensive experience in crisis management in the last few years and offered to assist the Egyptian government. "Despite the brutality of this attack, I have no doubts that Egyptian tourism will be capable of overcoming this shock, just as it has on other occasions in the past - with the support of the international tourism community," Mr Frangialli said.
In 2004, Egypt recorded the biggest increase in international tourist arrivals in the Middle East and North Africa, by more than 2 million arrivals - or by 34 percent. They amounted to almost eight million. The country, which was only barely affected by the terrorist attacks in Sinai last October, also benefited strongly from the strength of the European currency, making holidays in Egypt cheap.
- We have to try and make sure that terrorist attacks and threats do not spoil people’s holiday plans, wherever they may be going, and that Egypt is not abandoned as a destination, wrote Mr Frangialli. "As we have seen just recently, terrorist attacks can happen anywhere, even if they are not travelling abroad. People should not be discouraged from travelling."
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