Travel - Leisure | Economy - Development
"Egypt is safe; Tourists, come back!"
In central Cairo's famous Tahrir Square, where the revolution was won, the victory is celebrated each Friday by large festive crowds, a growing number of tourists are taking place in the celebrations. They are still few, but are warmly received by the protesters, watching out for them and making sure they are safe.
But the two major markets for travellers to Egypt - the UK and Germany - will soon revive. Germany's giant TUI already on 1 March resumes flights to Egypt from most German airports. Austria's ETI event resumes Egypt trips tomorrow, 26 February. British Thomas Cook is already operating trips to Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada and Luxor.
"Our experienced teams on the ground assure us that no tourist areas at the Red Sea have been affected in any way by the recent demonstrations," Thomas Cook Ltd says in an Egypt update issued yesterday. "They are fully operational and holidaymakers are continuing to enjoy the popular resorts of Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada."
Other countries are slower in normalising their Egypt travel operations, in some cases cancelled until April or even May. But this is quickly changing as governments are removing their Egypt travel warnings. Swedish operator Apollo yesterday announced that, following the lifting of the Stockholm Ministry of Foreign Affairs' travel warning, its first flight to Hurghada was to be precipitated by one month, to 2 April.
Egyptian authorities are doing their best to hasten such changes in Europe - their main travel market - despite the problems at the Ministry of Tourism, where the ex-Minister and several of his aides have been fired over corruption allegations.
Visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle yesterday met his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abul-Gheit and other ministers, in talks that to a large degree addr
Meanwhile, potential Egypt travellers all around the world are investigating ways to go and experience the new spirit in this ancient destination. Travel agents in the US are reporting on growing numbers of reservations and about tourists that had to cancel trips to Egypt earlier now are looking for new possibilities to go to the country.
From Finland, tour operator Finnmatkat reports a large request of people wanting to go to Egypt. These are both people made curious by the revolution and people that had to cancel their trips earlier this year. Among those having to cancel their trips, "many customers wanted to go Egypt in particular, which is why other destinations did not necessarily attract them", Finnmatkat reports. Following the pressure, trips from Finland to Egypt are to resume in mid-March.
Also TUI in Germany is noting an increased interest in its planned resumption of Egypt trips, which still remain fairly cheap. Interestingly, non-Germans are seeking to book Egypt travels through TUI as tour operators in their countries are slow to resume flights.
But despite these optimistic signals, the revivial of the Egytpian tourism industry is still very slow.
March will be the make-or-break month for the recovery of the country's tourism industry. Then, it will be seen if the 2011 season can be saved and if the large labour force in the sector can be maintained.
By staff writers
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