UAE travel agents said business to Egypt has shown no sign of pick-up in the weeks since violent unrest engulfed the tourism-dependent country.
“I haven’t had one inquiry [for Egypt travel] since the trouble began,” Mark Reed, general manager at Arabian Pacific, told Arabian Business.
Before the crisis, which saw crowds of demonstrators topple President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, he had at least two vacation-related inquiries per week.
This comes despite several weeks of peace in the country, and the emergence of Tahrir Square – the heart of the protest zone – as an unlikely tourist destination for Egyptians themselves.
“It’s slow – we don’t have tourists wanting to go. It’s because of the unrest,” said a manager at another large Dubai-based tourist company, who asked to remain anonymous.
Lack of interest from Gulf tourists is a major blow to the Egyptian economy, which sees one in eight of its 88 million population employed by the tourism industry. Tourism also generates close to $11bn of its GDP, and is widely recognised as the backbone of its economy.
In 2009, approximately 12.5 million tourists visited the North African country, making the tourism industry one of the top sources of foreign revenue, accounting for more than eleven percent of GDP.
Tunisia, another hugely popular tourist destination, has also seen its business plummet in the weeks since it set off a domino effect of protests across the Arab world, and more violent unrest this week will make its recovery even slower. Libya – once a destination for the hardiest adventure travelers – is now a no-go zone.
“We’ve had nothing for Tunisia, and we had one client we were trying to get out of Libya,” Reed said. “If it’s non-essential travel people aren’t tending to be going. I can’t remember the last Tunisia flight I booked.”
The agency has seen a spike in requests for destinations in Asia, Reed said, which has absorbed the runoff from North Africa.