Egypt's tourism faces meltdown as security fears mount

Egypt's tourist
industry was facing meltdown on Friday
as foreign governments warned their
citizens to stay away and told visitors
already there to remain in their hotels.
Fears of nationwide unrest in the wake of
a violent crackdown by the military-
backed interim government earlier this
week have resulted in a string of
countries issuing official advice against all
but essential travel to Egypt.
That has dealt another blow to a sector
that was already struggling with the
fallout from the political instability that
has ensued since the 2011 Arab Spring.
Russia, which has more than 50,000 of its
nationals currently on holiday in Egypt
and a similar number booked to go there
in the coming months, advised travel
agents to stop selling packages to the
north African state.
Britain, which had previously excluded
Egypt's popular Red Sea resorts from its
travel advisory, on Friday told its nationals
visiting the Red Sea resort of Hurghada to
stay in their hotels, in line with advice
received from the Egyptian police.
The warning followed a death in
Hurghada on Wednesday.
"Hurghada police advised tourists to
remain in hotel grounds," a statement
from the Foreign Office said. "We advise
you to follow their advice".
"You are strongly advised to avoid all
demonstrations and large gatherings.
"If you become aware of any nearby
protests, leave the area immediately. Do
not attempt to cross road blocks erected
by the security forces or protesters."
British travel association ABTA estimates
that there are currently around 40,000
Britons in Red Sea resorts such as
Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh, which is
an eight-hour drive from Cairo.
Tour operator Thomas Cook said it had
cancelled excursions from the Red Sea
resorts to Cairo, Luxor, Moses Mountain
and Saint Catherine's monastery.
But a spokeswoman added: "Sharm el-
Sheikh and Hurghada are fully operational
and holidaymakers are continuing to
enjoy these popular resorts."
Italy, which has an estimated 19,000
citizens in Egypt, advised them to remain
in hotels and holiday resorts.
"We strongly advise you to avoid
excursions outside of tourist areas,
particularly in cities," the foreign ministry
said in a statement on its website.
The ministry also said the security
situation in the northern part of the Sinai
peninsula was "very precarious" and
advised against any travel there.
"There is a risk of terrorist attacks. There
should be particular caution in the region
bordering the Gaza Strip, in Cairo and
Alexandria," it said.
"Great prudence is recommended in
crowded areas".
The federation of Italian tour operators
Fiavet said earlier this week that there
had been an 80-percent drop in the
number of Italians visiting Egypt this year.
The warnings issued by Britain and Italy
were mirrored in France, Germany and
Spain.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
indicated that a possible evacuation of
French nationals was being kept under
review. "We will see how the situation
evolves," he said, adding that, in the
meantime, citizens in Egypt were "very
strongly advised to stay at home."