Coronavirus and dashed tourism prospects in Egypt: The country strives to revive its economy
One of the wonder of the world, the Pyramids of Giza has been a top tourism destination for people across the world. Accounting for over 12% GDP in Egypt, tourism is the main source of economy boost in the country. But the COVID19 pandemic Lockdown led to a vast impact on Egypt’s tourism sector affecting livelihoods of millions of people.
July 1 onwards the site has however opened with required mandatory thermal checks and social distancing protocols, the usual hustle and bustle is missing with only few locals coming by.
Locals who relied on the tourists influx round the year for their livelihood are facing troubling times. Ashraf Nasr who has been providing camel rides to tourists for 25 years now says, “Its been so hard for everyone. We’ve spent four months at home. Each camel needs 100 Egyptian pounds ($6) a day for food.” With no respite in any near future Ashraf had to sell two of his camels to provide for his family.
After years of turmoil in Arab country of Egypt things had begun to settle down and prospects for a bright economy looked promising, something starkly different from now. 2015 passenger plan bomb attack aftermath and years of political disorder in country had settled down to lead to booming tourism pre-pandemic. In 2019 alone over 13.6 million people visited Egypt for tourism purposes and this year’s projected number was to cross 15 million. But the situation has taken a deadly and chaotic turn with coronavirus pandemic. Though the tourism is opening in a staggering manner, the fear in people is too great to travel in airlines to a different country. The effect is too great on the people of Egypt who rely on tourism as does the country for its economy.
Shahenda Adel, a tour guide from Giza says, “Finally, everything was stable. I was busy the whole week. But after the coronavirus, everything just disappeared.” Adel shares that she has lost over 1000 holiday bookings after international flights were banned in March. She explains that people affected are way more than visible – it includes hotel staff, the bookings of which were cancelled. Drivers, restaurants, basically the local life is disrupted with the coronavirus crisis.
Khaled el-Anany, the Tourism and Antiquities Minister of Egypt is on a purpose to revive his country’s economy by bringing back the tourism and business. He explains, “It was a disaster for us, like the whole world. We lost around $1billion per month and we’re estimating that we’ll still lose a lot of money during the coming weeks and months.”
Recent days have seen Mr. Anany making frequesnt appearances in media displaying the preventative and precautionary measures being adopted as mandatory requisites with museums reopening in Egypt. Few international flights have been resumed to South Sinai, Red Sea and Matrouh provinces. The fact that these coastal areas have almost no Covid-19 cases makes them the safest, elaborates Anany.
“For the time being, you will see the beaches, the sun, the desert, water activities – it’s the open air and the sea. Later on, we’ll open the Nile Valley, with Alexandria, Cairo, Luxor and Aswan”, the minister said.
The tourism is set to increase in Egypt, slowly but surely, as sanitization and other preventative measures are being set up in the country. The tour guides though hopeful, say wearing mask during the tour can be the biggest challenge, especially as the guides and tour operators rely on friendly etiquettes and smiles to engage with tourists it can be tough. Also wearing masks for long duration in hot deserts and closes spaces can be very daunting.
Egypt has begun to prepare for tourist influx. Giza is having mass cleaning up operations in all the pyramid regions. Grand Museum is also ready to reopen next year which can be key attraction site for tourists as it will house treasures including those of King Tutankhamun. The country is ready to count on its rich heritage and pharaonic history to bring back the tourism and economy boost.