Inbound tourism has virtually come to a halt in all but Red Sea resort areas in Egypt as violence has spread from Cairo to Sinai, Alexandria and other areas in the Nile Delta.
Deaths and injuries continued to mount over the weekend in the politico-religious civil conflict consuming the country, following the army take-over of the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi.
While tour operators have attempted to mitigate the damage to tourism by playing down the impact, the reality is that tourists are shunning the country, following widespread media coverage of the demonstrations and reports of scores of sexual assaults on women, including foreign journalists, in Tahrir Square.
The industry faces years of recovery. Even if the current conflict is resolved, deep-seated divisions in Egyptian society point to potential long-term unrest.
Despite the cancellation of some inbound flights operated by European carriers last week, EgyptAir said its schedule had and would be maintained and downplayed international concerns.
The airline's Regional General Manager in South Africa, Ihab Sieff said: "The heads of Al Azhar, the main Islamic authority, and the Coptic Church, the main Christian authority, in Egypt, supported by the other affiliated parties, have exercised their influence and have assured a peaceful transition period, like always in Egypt’s history..."
Eyewitnesses, he said, described the situation as "business as usual... hospitality warm and welcoming; all arrivals and departures of flights on time [and that] overall local and airport security had no lapse and there was never a feeling of insecurity anywhere whilst walking or driving to and from the city and airport."
The UK Foreign Office, however, continued to recommend against all but essential travel to Egypt but gave Red Sea resort areas the all clear.
"At present all our scheduled tours in Egypt for Trafalgar, Insight Vacations and Contiki are proceeding as planned," added Travel Corporation Managing Director, Theresa Szejwallo.
She added: "When it comes to a crisis our number one priority will always be the safety and welfare of our guests and staff. We will continue to assess the situation in Egypt and take steps based on the information we have."
Thompsons Holidays spokesperson, John Ridler, noted that, with no customers in Egypt at the present time, no cancellations were required.
However, he qualified: "We quote on Egypt all the time and there is an ongoing stream of enquiries but very few bookings are finalised. For now, we are not having to warn people off – the news is doing that for us."
Quoting feedback from Thompsons’ ground handlers, Mr. Ridler commented: "The big gathering was relatively peaceful and, again, no tourists were targeted or hurt. With regards to the Red Sea resorts, there have been no reports whatsoever. We are watching it on a very close basis... [and] would just warn customers on a one-on-one basis. There is also said to be a huge police presence at the airport and all along main routes... an effort to assure people of their safety."
Egypt & Beyond’s Cecelia Amory added latest feedback from her partners indicated that, although a number of bookings had been cancelled into last week, it was hoped visitor numbers, yet to recover to 2010 levels, would continue to rebound, albeit at a slower rate.
Travel Industry Review