Published August 17, 2013
Fears are growing that the impact of the political chaos that has wracked Egypt for the past month is starting to afflict key tourist areas – amid news that holiday-makers in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada have been warned to stay on site and not leave the premises.
Police in Hurghada are advising guests not to leave their hotels in the face of concerns that the current tense situation could spread east.
Earlier on August 15, 2013, holiday-maker Sally Asling posted a message on travel reviews website, TripAdvisor, saying that all excursions outside the hotel have been put on hold.
“I am now staying in the Iberotel Aquamarine, and we have had a letter through the room door from Thomson and the tourist police telling us not to leave the hotel and that all excursions outside the hotel are cancelled…The hotel is not affected itself. It is biz as normal, and we feel safe. Just unsettled.”
A spokesperson for Thomson has confirmed that customers in Hurghada were advised to stay in their hotels overnight (August 14-15, 2013), and that that the company is working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to verify what will happen in the next 24 hours.
A statement from Thomson says:
“The safety of our customers is always our number one priority. Following the reported demonstrations in Cairo and other locations, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is now advising against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Suez. It is not currently advising British nationals to leave the country and the advice has not changed for Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, Taba and Marsa Alam.
“The majority of our customers are in Sharm el Sheikh, which is a considerable distance – indeed, an eight hour drive – from Cairo. There have been no related incidents in Sharm El Sheikh or any of the other popular Red Sea tourist areas.
“We are working with the FCO to monitor the situation closely, and verify information on the ongoing situation.”
Tour operator Kuoni, which also offers breaks to the Red Sea, has been tweeting about the situation, and says that the resorts are calm.
Egypt has been a scene of violence since July 3, 2013 when President Mohammed Mursi was relieved of office, sparking demonstrations among his supporters. The country has also been unsettled since the ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions that began in late 2010 and early 2011.
However, until now, the holiday zones that make up the heartland of the country’s tourist industry – Red Sea resorts such as Sharm El Sheikh, Taba and Hurghada – have appeared immune to the troubles, with tourists continuing to flock unhindered to the beaches.
Egypt declared a month-long state of emergency on August 14, 2013 in the wake of political demonstrations that turned to bloodshed.
Supporters of the deposed president have staged sit-ins in Cairo, but yesterday’s police response to the protests – which included attempts to clear the crowds with armoured bulldozers – added to a death toll that has been growing since the deposition.
The interim government, brought in in the wake of Mursi’s removal from power, admits that the extent of the violence has been significant, with Mohamad Fath Allah, the Health Ministry spokesman, putting the toll at 525 fatalities, with 3,717 injured.
Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood party says that more than 2,000 have died in the clashes.
Vice-President Mohammed ElBaradei has resigned in the wake of the violence.
“I cannot continue in shouldering the responsibility for decisions I do not agree with and I fear their consequences,” he said in a statement.
“I cannot shoulder the responsibility for a single drop of blood.”
A curfew has been introduced in Cairo which effectively closes down the city at night, running from seven in the evening to six in the morning (7pm-6am).
There are no reports of violent incidents near the Red Sea resorts, but the escalating situation has had a clear impact on tourist confidence in a country that has traditionally proved a popular destination with sun-seekers in search of a bargain break.
Tourism minister, Hisham Zaazou, has said that Egypt’s tourism sector is shedding numbers – not least because the current unrest is occurring during peak season.
“In the first 15 days of July 2013, Egypt welcomed 387,000 tourists compared with 515,000 tourists in the same period last year,” he said.