EgyptyAir MS804 tragedy: Egypt's tourism trade 'one disaster from being finished'

Egyptian officials inspect the crash site of Russian Airliner in Suez, Egypt, in November last year. Photo / Getty Images
Egyptian officials inspect the crash site of Russian Airliner in Suez, Egypt, in November last year. Photo / Getty Images

After a decade of political turmoil and the downing of a holiday jet last year, tourism in Egypt was left in a desperate state - so will the MS804 tragedy sound the death knell for the industry?

Figures from February this year show that visitor numbers to Egypt practically halved and the average number of nights spent in the country is down by 67.2 per cent compared to 2015.

The country's tourism industry, says one expert, is now one disaster away from being finished altogether. If terrorists did down MS804 destroying the tourism industry is very likely to be one of their aims, as the poorer the country is, the easier it is to turn it into a breeding ground for recruits.

Dr Yeganeh Morakabati, from Bournemouth University, who specialises in the perception of risk in the context of catastrophic national and global events, told MailOnline Travel: "It was and it still is crucial for the Egyptians to not let any other events occur as it would be fatal to what is left of their tourism industry.

"Sadly, this latest event comes shortly after EgyptAir was subject to a hijack on 29th March and they were already trying to recover from the events related to the Russian charter flight that was blown up in November 2015.

"This will add to the other events such as the recent killing of the Cambridge University student and at a time when we have heard that they have sentenced six inmates for the killing of a French teacher in prison.

"All of these events paint a poor image of Egypt as a tourist destination, just making it more and more difficult for them to recover their faltering tourism industry."

Dr Morakabati also commented that negative press in the countries surrounding Egypt has "taken its toll on the image of the region in the minds of tourists and business investors".

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Frank Brehany, Consumer Director of HolidayTravelWatch, agreed that the effect of the crash will be severe.

He said that "whether the incident is proven to be terror-linked or not, holidaymakers will no doubt rethink any plans to visit that fascinating country".

"Whilst it is too early to conclude what happened to MS804, it will nonetheless create concern within the minds of air passengers about the security to be found at all travel hubs; that is a natural consequence of such events.

"Insofar as Egyptian Tourism is concerned, whether the incident is proven to be terror-linked or not, holidaymakers will no doubt rethink any plans to visit that fascinating country."

He added: "It is clear from recent reports that Egypt was planning a push to attract European inbound tourism, but I fear that whatever initiatives were planned, these will not bear the fruit they were expecting to receive.

"It is unfortunately a sad reflection of the times we live in and such incidents or fears should be directly confronted so as to build up confidence in safety and confidence in travelling and supporting destinations like Egypt."

Egypt depends on its tourism income with the industry a major source of employment for the country, so its state of health is an important issue.

The number of tourists visiting the country has actually been dwindling since the 1990s, following brutal terrorist attacks.

Eleven years ago 88 people were massacred by terrorists in Sharm el Sheik, and in 1997, 62 tourists were gunned down by Islamists while visiting the ancient remains at Luxor.

The political situation hasn't helped, either.

A political uprising during the Arab Spring, which began in 2010 in Tunisia, also spread to Egypt where there were 18 days of mass protests, some of which turned violent.

At the time, ABTA said that bookings for Egypt were at a new low.

Tourism in Egypt was hit again last year after a Russian Metrojet in the Sinai Peninsula was brought down by a bomb that was smuggled on board.

All 224 people on board were killed in the disaster, which occurred on October 31.

After the tragedy easyJet, which operates flights to Hurghada on the Red Sea coast, suspended its flights until May 29.

Similarly, Thomson and First Choice cancelled flights and hotel bookings up to and including September 28 for Sharm el-Sheikh, in line with the FCO advice.

Figures released earlier this year underscored the dramatic effect on Egypt's tourism industry that the Metrojet attack had.

Visitor numbers fell by 45.9 per cent in one year.

In February 2016, Egypt only received 346,500 visitors, compared to 640,200 last year, leaving resorts such as Sharm el Sheik abandoned.

The average number of nights tourists are spending in the country went down by 67.2 per cent in February this year compared to 2015, dropping from 9.2 per cent to 5.5 per cent.

- Daily Mail

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