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Last week, newly appointed tourism minister, Yehia Rashed, announced proposals which hope to revive the Egyptian tourism industry, following a turbulent period and heavy first quarter losses. The number of foreign tourists to Egypt fell by more than 40% in the first quarter of 2016, it’s reported. The scheme will focus on six separate areas, including upgrading tourist facilities, increasing accommodation and transport options, and working with international tourism partners, as well as focusing on an increased presence for national carrier EgyptAir.
Following the downing of a Russian Metrojet aircraft over Egypt’s Sinai desert last October, flights between the UK and Sharm-el-Sheikh were suspended. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office are still advising against all but essential travel via Sharm el Sheikh airport, though the area of Sharm el Sheikh itself is not advised against. There are additional security measures in place around the resort areas of Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada, of which Rashed says “These people [airport security] have worked day and night … Egypt is safe.”
Minister Rashed said of the plans, “My one and only goal is to bring huge numbers of tourists back to Egypt.” The impact of the last six months has been widely reported, with many businesses in the tourism sector struggling to say operational. Rashed further elucidated on the scheme, stating “The 6x6 Tourism Impact Plan is all about action that brings together the priority areas of Egyptian tourism, providing support and enhancements as we move forward … I am ambitious for our tourism sector. I want to see positive action and for that action to have an immediate impact.”
Egypt’s tourism industry had already been struggling to recover following the political upheaval of the 2011 uprising, which led to the end of Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year rule of the country. Just 9.8 million tourists visited Egypt in 2011, a huge drop from the 14.7 million in 2010. Rashed is optimistic about the new scheme and the future of tourism in Egypt, telling Reuters that he wants “to get that smile that you are smiling into the faces of everybody.”