COVID-19 Restrictions: Tourism resumes in Egypt
After 18 months of travel restrictions, tourists can once enjoy the beauty of ancient Egyptian tombs. Tourism accounts for 9% of the country’s GDP, but according to the tourism ministry, less than a quarter of the usual number of tourists visited Egypt in 2020 – signaling a 55% fall in GDP.
The industry had already suffered from instability in the country following the 2011 political unrest. But since the beginning of 2021, authorities have started to regain hope. The government made the vaccination of tourism workers in the South Sinai and the Red Sea governorates a top priority – that represents about 2 million people given the vaccine in the country’s most visited resorts.
COVID-19 restrictions for tourists are also relatively light: a single negative PCR test upon arrival has been requested since July 2020.
“Tourism is starting to recover. If we look at the pyramid or the Egyptian Museum, we will find a very large occupancy rate, whether from internal or external tourism, especially after receiving Russian tourism we began to see very large occupancy rate from external tourism in Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada and also Marsa Alam,” says Islam Fares, Director general of the union of Arab tourist guides.
Ministry of Tourism statistics show a noticeable increase in tourist numbers: since the beginning of 2021, Egypt has welcomed 300,000 tourists every month. By April, this figure rose to more than half a million a month, around 50% of visitors pre-pandemic.
“We look forward in the second half of 2020 (2021), and after vaccinations began around the world and the arrival of Russian tourism at Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada airports, to recover a little bit until we reach the normal rates for the tourism sector,” says Fares.
In early August, Russia resumed flights to Egyptian Red Sea resorts, ending a ban that had lasted almost six years. Moscow had banned direct flights to Egypt after the 2015 bombing of a Russian airliner shortly after it took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.
Suzan O /AFP