Published December 21, 2010
While Morocco is working on attracting more torists, Egyptian shores are not safe any more. Holiday-making is turning into a nightmare as tourists avoid the country and deal it an economic blow due to regular shark attack.
Several holiday-makers have in the recent weeks been attacked by sharks in the immensely popular Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. Initially, it appeared to be an individual, one-off incident; however, as five attacks were recorded in six days, caution is crucial. Local authorities decided to close the beaches after three Russian and one Ukrainian tourist were attacked. The Ministry of Tourism in Egypt fears the attacks will have a negative impact on the number of visitors.
Tourism presents approximately 11 % of local GDP, generating employment for 12-13 % of the population. Especially Russian tourists represent more than a tenth of all visitors each year and Russian tourist agencies have already recorded a 20% drop in holiday bookings. In fear of losing their valued customers, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism vowed to pay US$50,000 in compensation to Russian tourists affected by the attacks.
A team of marine biologists was urged to come help explain the sharks’ aggressive behavior and how to prevent it. The predator is a white-tipped shark, which according to locals is quite rare in Egyptian waters. After one animal was captured, the government chose to open the beaches yet the horrified beach visitors witnessed another deadly attack on a German snorkeler only a few meters off shore.
While the experts argue what might be causing these unheard off fits of aggression, local authorities are planning to spread out nets along the beaches to protect swimmers and snorkelers from further attacks. However, until the sharks are captured, not many visitors will have the courage to return.
Meanwhile, Morocco hopes to attract more–nay, double the numbers by 2020– tourists to its Mediterranean and Atlantic coastal regions.
In 2001, 4.4 million tourists came to Morocco whereas 9.2 million arrived in 2010. Taking into account the global financial crisis, increasing worries about visiting Muslim countries and strong competition in tourism industry, it is quite an achievement. However, the Moroccans are not stopping there. They have the will and the cash to achieve their objective.
The Morocco cause has so far been well backed by many Arab pledges and there is no sign that the trend will not continue. King Mohammed VI of Morocco has made it clear that tourism and its promotion is a top priority for his country in years to come that is why there are great efforts on an external and internal basis. Apart from the obvious financial advantages, an increase in inbound tourism would open Morocco up to a greater level of cultural awareness, which, in most cases, improves the standards of the country itself.
Another massive advantage is in the job market. As many developing countries all over the world do, Morocco relies heavily on tourism to keep people at work and one of the intentions behind the new promotion plan is to create around 147,000 jobs in tourism.