Did Egypt move too fast to receive tourists in light of COVID-19?

Egypt received tourists from Ukraine as the country resumed tourism and airports opened up amid strict precautionary and preventive measures.

al-monitor This picture taken on June 20, 2020, shows a view of an EgyptAir Airbus A320neo aircraft on the tarmac at Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, in the Red Sea resort city at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.  Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images.

Jul 6, 2020

CAIRO — Egypt recently received tourists from Ukraine in Red Sea cities amid precautionary measures, following the government’s decision to resume tourism and international flights as of July in the governorates that have been less affected by the coronavirus pandemic, namely the Red Sea governorate. The decision comes after a three-month hiatus in aviation.

Maj. Gen. Amr Hanafi, governor of the Red Sea governorate, announced July 1 the arrival of a flight from Ukraine to Hurghada International Airport with 167 tourists on board. All precautionary and preventive measures were taken from the moment they set foot on Egyptian territory and throughout their transfers to their hotels, according to the governor.

Hanafi held several meetings with some of the arriving tourists to ask them for their opinions on the state’s preventive measures, which they deemed to be in line with international standards, whether at the airports or during their transfers in luxury tourist buses on the way to their hotels. 

Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism had announced on June 19 a set of regulations to be observed for the resumption of tourism and in operating hotels, restaurants, sea cruises, transportation, as well as incentive packages for incoming tourists and travel agencies.

Egyptian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled al-Anany on June 19 toured Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh to ensure that hotels and resorts were already well prepared and ready to receive Egyptian and foreign tourists.

The health safety certificates provided by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities for hotels to resume operations is at the basis of the regulations for the reopening of the tourism sector. Hotels wishing to resume operations ought to obtain the certificate, which will be circulated to all resorts and hotels via the Egypt Hotel Association (EHA). It serves to certify that hotels are abiding by the terms and conditions approved by the government in accordance with global health safety standards.

The Egyptian Tourism Federation and the EHA provide the certificate for hotels and resorts that meet the requirements; it is signed by the EHA, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, and the Ministry of Health.

The EHA has created the Food and Occupational Safety and Health Administration to address this issue and follow up with hotels to ensure the terms and conditions are met for guests’ stays.

During his June 19 tour, Anany stressed the need to coordinate with the Tourism and Antiquities Police to review the records of the operating establishments and follow up on the professional procedures and measures that are being implemented so as to ensure that hotels are committed to the necessary requirements.

In the event of any violation, the police will be notified immediately and the ministry will take strict legal measures against the offenders, including revoking the establishment’s license and suspending involved managers and administrators, Anany added.

Elham al-Zayyat, former head of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, told Al-Monitor international tourism is “not likely to return to normal as swiftly as we wish for,” given that airlines have reduced flights and projected that commercial flight bookings are not likely to reach the same rates registered in 2019 before 2025.

Mohammed al-Kahlawi, secretary general of the General Union of Arab Archaeologists, told Al-Monitor, “I believe Egypt has rushed the decision to receive tourists in this delicate situation and during these difficult times. What are the scenarios in case of the arrival of coronavirus-infected tourists from Asian countries or China? Will they be treated in Egypt or repatriated?”

He added, “The Ministry of Tourism ought to have all incoming tourists sign a form to undergo a medical examination upon entry to Egypt. International tourism is suffering from an economic pandemic. It is going to be a long time before tourism goes back to normal."

Kahlawi said, “Instead, Egypt could rely on domestic tourism, which is profitable and would greatly increase occupancy in hotels. The World Health Organization has warned against a second wave of the virus. The Egyptian state ought to take the utmost precautions not only in hotels and resorts but also on the beaches and in museums that will be open to the public.”

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