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Virus-free month lifts Egypt tourism hopes

CAIRO: Egypt’s hard-hit tourist industry has been given a major boost with the news that no coronavirus cases have been reported among visitors in the month since travelers began returning to three governorates.

Egypt suspended tourism and air arrivals for almost 100 days as part of wide-ranging measures to combat the pandemic.

After a partial resumption at the start of July, almost 100 flights arrived from countries including Ukraine, Belarus, Switzerland and Hungary. Tourists spent their holidays in Egyptian hotels, enjoying the warm sun and the beaches.

Tamer Makram, president of the South Sinai Investors Association, said tourist groups had returned to their countries without recording any infections.

He said the recent tourism revival is a healthy sign and predicted a rapid recovery in the sector, especially since other visitors, mainly from Italy, will soon begin arriving in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Maha Al-Badini, who works in the tourism industry, told Arab News that these positive results highlighted Egypt’s reputation as a tourist destination.

She said that Egypt is growing in popularity as a destination, especially in the European market, with Ukraine removing the country from its red list and Greece also concluding a bilateral agreement to resume tourism.

Al-Badini said these results were presented to heads of EU countries in Cairo in a bid to have tourist movement fully restored before the end of August.

The Ministry of Tourism is in talks with these countries to lift Europe’s travel ban on Egypt.

Tourism Minister Khaled Al-Anani said that infection rates in the South Sinai, Red Sea and Matrouh governorates — three areas that were welcoming foreign tourism as a first stage — were lower than in some EU countries.

Al-Anani said that ambassadors who had been told of Egypt’s success had stressed there are no obstacles preventing EU citizens traveling to Egypt.

European envoys voiced their satisfaction with precautionary measures and safety controls adopted by the Egyptian government as tourism returns.

The Egyptian government has allowed hotels to operate at 50 percent capacity from the beginning of August amid estimates the monthly losses in the tourism sector total $1 billion.

Egypt’s bookings for the current year are 32 percent below last year when the sector brought in revenues of $14.5 billion.

Sameh Saad, managing director of Misr Tourism Company, called for special incentives to stimulate the sector after the pandemic, including programs to encourage both overseas visitors and Egyptians to travel within the country.


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