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Tourism and terrorism in egypt

Info: 4414 words (18 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in History

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The tremendous historical sites and sights and rich cultural heritage has made Egypt a unique tourism destination. The prominence of tourism industry has had such undeniable impact on the overall Egyptian economy that it has been regarded by many observers as the life blood of Egyptian economy. The crucial significant of tourism industry have not been overlooked by Egyptian political dissents. Although unsuccessful, they at time attempted to make their political demands by carrying out terrorism attacks on this vulnerable industry.

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This chapter attempted to offer some general insights on tourism industry and terrorism accidents in the contemporary Egypt. The chapter begins with a cursory review of the Egyptian context proceeding with discussion on the fluctuation of the tourism industry in Egypt in the past three decades. The analysis is largely based upon the official data taken from Egypt Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) and the annual analysis of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). On occasions, the complementary aggregated data has been adapted from other resources like Business Source Premier and Regional Surveys of the World, the Middle East and North America (2008). The analysis is spilt into three periods, comparing the international tourists’ arrivals and receipts. Finally the results are represented in a graph tracing the trends in past three decades. The next section deals with the main tourism stakeholders playing role in the tourism in the Egypt. The final section discusses the emergence, evolution and challenges of terrorism groups in Egypt and their engagement in terrorist attacks targeted tourism destinations. In this section counter-terrorism strategies oscillating between carrot and stick policies will be reviewed and discussed the degree to which each has been successful.

Egypt at a glance

The Arab Republic of Egypt located in the northeastern of the African continent and the Sinai Peninsula. It has land borders with Sudan in the south and with Libya in the west and shoreline extending along the Mediterranean Sea in the north and Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba in the East. Since the most of the country is desert, the population is distributed very unevenly in Cairo and Alexandria and around the Nile and Suez Canal. These areas are among the world’s most densely populated regions. (Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook, 2008) Egypt’s geographic arrangement and distribution of population, and especially the sole reliance on the Nile River for irrigation has been resulted in central administration and allowed the government to extend well its authority to the peripheries. (Goldschmidt, Arthur, 1988)

In 2008, the total population of Egypt was 81,713,520 which make the Egypt one of the most populous countries in the region. A large proportion this population is young; half of them are under twenty years of age and two-thirds are under thirty a situation that severely strains the economy. (CAPMAS, 2008) Egypt’s government is hardly able to meet the demands for food, shelter, education, and jobs. Around three million Egyptians have migrated to other Arab countries, particularly the oil-rich states, in search of work. Their payments to their families constitute a major source of Egypt’s income.

Much like elsewhere in the world economy have come to play a crucial role in Egyptian lives. The long history of colonial exploitation and the legacy of enduring authoritarian rulers forestalled the industrial development of Egypt in nineteen century. At the turn of twentieth century, the industrialization began to take root by a rapid growth in textile industry. The growth was comparatively satisfactory before socialist government of Abdel Nasser (1956-1970) took the power. Abdel Nasser eighteen years era is characterized by militarization of politics and concentration of power through the supremacy of the executive branch. Under Nasser the state took the control of the economy to ensure equitable development, a policy known later as Arab Socialism. Nasser was a charismatic leader and earned reputation as champion of Arab interest, however, his economic policies brought the country on the verge of bankruptcy. Nasser’s death in 1970 ushered in a massive political and economic change in Egypt. By initiating the economic policy of Enfetah (openness), which means liberalization of economic, Sadat his successor began a series of fundamental reforms in the economy. In addition, Sadat’s regional foreign policy including peace initiative and rapprochement with Israel enhanced the international image of the Egypt. Under President Hosni Mubarak (1981 until now) Egypt paved the same routes and strove for the same goals, however, there was along way to go as the country still was grappling with chronic problems emanated from inside and abroad. (Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook, 2008)

Flow and ebb of Tourism Industry in Egypt

Between 1982 and 1990, the number of international tourist arrivals went up from 1,423,251 to 2,600,117 which indicate an increase of 182 per cent. Coupled with the numbers of arrivals, revenue from tourism was about 2.5 billion US dollars by 1990, ranked tourism sector as one of the most lucrative sectors of the Egyptian economy. (Table. 5.1) Such great advancement was mainly because of the Egypt government economic initiatives of liberalization I indicated before. (Wahab, 1997) However, the tourism industry proved to be one of the most susceptible sectors to instability in the region. The triggering of terrorist activity in the Middle East after mid-1980s and the anti-American sentiment in the region, intensified by the US air-strikes on targets in Libya in 1986, resulted in tourists reduction, particularly US citizens, in traveling to Egypt.

The 90s started with one of the most dramatic event of region caused by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 and the following international dispatching of troops to the region. Not surprisingly the tourism industry in Egypt was affected considerably by the consequences of this event. (Conrad, 2005) In February 1991 tourist arrivals fallen off to 57,000, compared with 208,000 in February 1990. Following the end of the Persian Gulf conflict, tourist numbers recovered quickly, reaching to 2214277 on average in 1991 and account for the record figure of around 3 millions in the 12 months to June 1992. (Table. 5.2) Yet, the tourism sector in Egypt went bust again, when a tourism destination were targeted by Islamist militants terrorists. The number of tourists visiting Egypt dropped off about 22% in 1993, while revenue fell by 38%. (Table 5.2) Having failed to eradicate the problem of terrorism through its campaign against militant Islamists, the Government allocated 25 million US dollars for a venture to promote tourism in 1994, with the aim of restoring revenue from this sector to its 1992 level. (Wahab, 1997) However, the number of visitors in the first three months of 1994 was 15% lower than the 1993 level. In January 1993 the World Bank had approved a 130 million US dollars loan for the development of new tourism infrastructure, within the frame­work of a program, valued at some 805 billion US dollars (EIU, 2004)

Realizing that tourism is one of the main cornerstones of the national economy, a com­prehensive plan was prepared for the fiscal year 1994/1995 to enhance the efforts in three main tourism fields: (a) development; (b) promotion; and (c) public awareness (El Beltagui 1995). The Ministry of Tourism was among the pioneer to put into action the policy of privatization. In addition, an overall national tourism development strategy drawing on marketing techniques was adopted. This strategy laid out the priority zones and determined the detailed rules for investors while taking into account a sustainable development strategy by protecting the natural and cultural resources. The Ministry of Tourism also undertook practical measures in the promotion of tourist industry through an ambitious plan. One important element of this promotional plan was to strengthen Egypt’s image on the international tourism map as a place for convention tourism. Furthermore, it attempted to raise public awareness of the significance of tourism through the mass media. Ten TV spots were produced in 1993-94 and repeatedly shown on main Egyptian TV channels. Also, an agreement was made between the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Education to incorporate tourism issues in the curricula of primary and secondary schools. (El Beltagui 1995). By mid-1995 several developmental plan with the aim of enhancing tourism infrastructures were implemented in the Abu Soma and the Red Sea coast at Sahl Hashish. According to the Tourism Development Authority report during these years some 27 new projects also were taken into consideration on the south Sinai coast. (EIU, 1998) the consequences of such measures was obvious, in 1995 tourist arrivals increased a quarter further compared to last year culminating to 3.13 millions, a pattern repeated in the following year with some 3.9 million tourist arrivals and estimated revenue of 3.7 billion US dollars. (Table 5.2)

Source: Egypt Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS)

Flourishing of the tourism industry was halted by a dramatic setback in late 1997. Constant fears of the safety and security of travelers followed a terrorist attack on a German tour bus in Cairo in September, which nine German tourists and one Egyptian lost their lives, were aggravated the next month by the massacre of 58 tourists and four Egyptians in Luxor. Many tourist agencies cancelled their travels and similarly many potential tourists withdraw their application for travelling to these destinations. Immediately the Government took extensive recovery measures including compensation of loss of tourism by internal tourism in the region. (Conrad, 2005) Egypt Air, which lost many foreign tourists, offered a half priced fares tickets for domestic tourists. Key among the recovery measures taken in these years is a numerous discounts on several goods and services to urge the potential travelers to come back to the region. The official statistics estimated 1.2 billion US dollars resulted from decrease of tourists’ numbers from 3.9 to 3.7 and other recovery expenses. Since 1999 the tourism industry undergone recovery and the former construction plans in tourism industry accelerated. The statistics in this year confirm such rapid recovery as around 4.8million tourists visited Egypt and brought about revenue of about 3.9 million US dollars. (CAPMAS, 2008)

The investing in tourism industry in the following years was unprecedented. For instance, the value of only one contract for development of luxury accommodation in Port Ghaleb on the Red Sea was around 2,000 million US. These investments proved to be effective as tourist arrivals increased to 5.5 million in 2000, bringing around 4.345 billion US dollar income. (EIU, 2000)

The regional crisis including conflict between Palestinians and Israelis in second intifada in September 2000 and the September 11th attacks of 2001 put the sector once again into decline, a number of projects put on hold and many travellers cancel their flights as a result. By November 2001 tourist numbers had fallen off 54.5% compared with the same month the previous year. Since then tourist arrivals have steadily risen and by August 2002 arrivals were a remarkable 15% up on the previous year. However, revenues were taking longer to return to pre-September 11th levels as a result of increased discounting. (Table 5.3) Once again the Government took into consideration the recovery measures in 2002 to make up for the tremendous losses of tourist revenues. Due to global values of Egypt heritages the prestigious international organization showed willingness to make investment in tourism industry in Egypt. A prime example is UNESCO which supported a 350 million dollar project to reconstruct the Great Egyptian Museum near the Pyramids at Giza. The second Gulf War in 2003 affected the tourism industry in Egypt in some extent. The same year Egypt was host of an international conference on promotion of sustainable tourism following which contribute immensely in offering a positive image of Egypt tourism industry. In 2004 tourist income reached 6.1 billion US dollar which was the Egypt’s most important current-account credit in the economy history of the country. Tourist arrivals increased by 35% in 2004 to 8.1 million arrivals and a second successive record. (EIU, 2004)

The Egyptian government since kept supporting the industry by targeting the markets in European and Arab countries and removing the existing barriers for foreign investing. A successful measure taken by Egypt government was sponsoring the travel of tourism journalists and allowing German and Italian visitors to show any identification cards rather than passport.

Key among these measures has also been investing in human resources. The latest measure in this respect was signing a contract with Cornell University to offer training course for Egyptians in the hospitality and tourism industry. The similar educational contract has also been signed with countries with high experiences in the tourism industry such as Greece and France. In addition a five-year campaign with the aim of raising the awareness of public was undertaken in April 2006. Within these programs Egyptians are given training about significant of tourism industry in their life and how to communicate in a hospitable manner. Such training has also incorporated in the primary school curriculum. The campaign also makes best use of televised and printed media to meet its mission.

Another campaign has been undertaken to enhance tourism at international level. UK-based DDB International has been hired for this purpose. Marwa Fayed, senior account manager notes “The campaign borrows some of the same concepts used by Malaysia and India ….We are trying to make Egypt into a brand.” (Cited in Meed, 2007)

These measures resulted in the renewal of attacks on tourist facilities in 2004 and 2005 and a victory for authorities. Finally according to most recent statistics, in 2006 tourism revenue reached 7.6 billion dollars, Egypt largest source of export earnings. Tourists’ arrivals rose by 5 percent to 9.1 million, a third successive record. (EIU, 2008)

Source: Egypt Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS)

Tourism stakeholders in Egypt

Central and Local government

Due to centralized system of governance, appointed authorities in Egypt at local and central level has taken major roles in tourism industry. In particular in recent years they have drawn considerable attention to the industry. Egypt is organized into 27 governorates, each headed by an appointed governor. The local government system act in 1960, stipulated a diverse responsibility for governorates ranging from social, health, welfare, and educational services to the social and economic development of their region. They are monitoring on the measures and plans of the city and village councils. The actual authority however rest with top officials in Cairo in a highly centralized manner through a heavily burdened bureaucracy. The village mayors who were only elected local authorities are now selected by the Ministry of the Interior. (Fahmi, 2002)

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The ministry of tourism

The Ministry of Tourism has come to play destination management organization (DMO) role in Egypt albeit with more and more limited power compared to its Western counterparts. The Ministry is organized into four major sections: (a) Planning and Development; (b) Regulation of Tourist Services; (c) Administration; and (d) Financial and Legal Affairs. Like most other ministries, the Min­istry of Tourism suffers from overstaffing and inadequate technical capa­bility. The Ministry in recent years has taken many proactive steps to ensure the private sector dependency tourism. The initial step was establishment of the Tourism Development Authority in 1991 with the aim of enhancing the relationship of private sector with the Ministry in guiding and promoting touristic investments. (Wahab 1997). The Ministry also supervises a number of public sector organizations: (a) Egypt­ian General Authority for Promotion of Tourism; (b) Public Authority for Conference Centres; and (c) Tourism Development Authority. A crisis management unit has been established in the Ministry of Tourism to coordinate the stakeholders’ activities during and after crisis. Key to the recent changes in the Ministry is the new position of the public sector Tourism Authority, as an umbrella company consists of five associated companies including Egyptian General Organization for Tourism and Hotels, Misr Travel Company, Egyptian Hotels Company, Misr Hotels, and Grand Hotels of Egypt (Wahab 1997).The new appointments in the top managerial body of the Ministry of Tourism 2004 is also represents fundamental positive changes for the tourism sector in Egypt. (American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, 2008)

Ministry of Interior and Police

There are two major branches of the police in Egypt. The State Security Investigations Sector

(SSIS) dealing with crime and investigation, and the Central Security Force (CSF) dealing with internal security issues like public protests and combat with oppositions. As a whole, the force maintains law and order, detects and prevents crime, collects evidence, processes passports, controls traffic, and screens immigrants. In each governorate, a director of police oversees law enforcement in the district. The director reports to the governor. Both the governor and director are overseen by the Ministry of the Interior. Police ranks reflect the gradations within the army, with the higher ranking police officers being major generals down to first lieutenants. Below this are lieutenant-chief warrant officers. Enlisted officers hold the ranks of master sergeant, sergeant, corporal, and private. There is a special tourist police, who wear an armband with an insignia in Arabic and English and are able to speak in English. It was established in 1997 after the massacre of 60 tourists at the Hatsheptsut temple in Luxor. According to one report, a large body of tourist police has been deployed to guard tourist sites. (Fielding, D. and Shortland, A. 2005)

Egyptian Tourism Federation (ETF)

The tourism private sector in Egypt is represented by “Egyptian Federation of Tourist Chambers” (EFTC) which was established in 1968 when the first law for tourism was enacted. With new demands for more and more enhancing the tourism industry its official title was changed to “Egyptian Tourism Federation” (ETF) in 2002. The main ETF task as mentioned in its constitution is to ensure “the common interests of the tourism industry by developing strategic cooperation and joint planning between the five Affiliate Associations.” This is accomplished through close relationship with the five affiliate business associations:

  • Egyptian Hotels Association (EHA)
  • Egyptian Travel Agents Association (ETAA)
  • Egyptian Chamber of Tourist Establishments (ECTE)
  • Egyptian Chamber of Tourist Commodities (ECTC)
  • Egyptian Chamber of Diving and Water Sports (CDWS).

The ETF is also work in association with the following institutions:

  • Travel and tourism enterprises
  • Ministry of Tourism and public authorities in general
  • Supply structure of the tourism industry

According to its official site the areas of activity of the ETF is to enhance and support following sectors:

  • Resources development
  • Transportation
  • Infrastructure and superstructure of tourism destinations
  • Human resources development
  • International and regional organizations concerned with tourism development

(ETF website)

Egypt Airline

EgyptAir is a major Egypt state-owned airline established in 1932 and headquartered in Cairo, Egypt. Beginning in 1980, EgyptAir embarked on a modernization and marketing plan. Accordingly, EgyptAir planned its network to maximize its traffic and scope, reaching main cities in all five continents. To carry out its marketing plan, EgyptAir purchased several new aircraft and then developed an autonomous infrastructure to support and serve its fleet in order to operate in a safe and efficient manner. As a result of its market research, EgyptAir was reinvented in a stepped-pyramid form. The base of the pyramid was EgyptAir’s most profitable markets. This was a significant step toward establishing the airline’s financial credibility, which can be very challenging for an airline from an underdeveloped region of the world such as Egypt.

EgyptAir owns shares in many tourism companies and hotel chains, such as Cairo Airport Mövenpick, Tut Amon, and Nefertari in Aswan and Abu Simbel, and Taba Hilton resorts in Sinai. EgyptAir also owns shares in many charter companies, such as Shorouk Air and Air Cairo. Such investments have increased EgyptAir’s assets tenfold since the implementation of the airline’s modernization and expansion plan in 1980. EgyptAir’s network has also expanded to reach major cities and capitals in all five continents. (Groenewege, Adrianus, 2003)

Terrorism in Egypt

There is little debt that the main challenge to the Tourism Industry comes from a major anti-government extremist movement, the Islamic Group (IG, known in Arabic as Al-Gamaat al-Islamiya).[7] IG emerged in the late 1970s with the principle objective of removing the current Egyptian government from power and replacing it with an Islamic regime. Affiliated with al-Qaida, it has also developed an absolute anti- United States (U.S.) pledge. From 1992 until 1999, IG militants carried out several attacks against tourist destinations in Egypt, most notably a November 1997 attack at Luxor that claimed the lives of 58 foreign visitors. (Graph, 2)

Since 1992 Egyptian police and security centres embarked massive attacks on Islamic groups. Coupled with these counter terrorism measures Egyptian parliament passed new anti-terrorism law stipulating death penalty for some crimes and consequently and the Egyptian martial judiciary convicted a number of terrorist to death on accusation of overthrowing the regime. The Islamic groups fought back through terrorism attacks mainly toward the tourism destinations. Such attacks continued constantly over 1993, and proved to be a suitable target for terrorists to gain their goals and at the same the tourism industry suffered considerably from the attacks. These left an intensively negative image of Egypt as a tourism choice and were resulted in withdrawal of many international tourism operators from Egypt. This time the government accelerated its counter-terrorism measures by deployment a massive number of security forces. Those accused of terrorist act were received very severe punishments by military courts. In 1993 these courts in an unprecedented action convicted a record number of 38 Islamists to death and 29 were executed. (Tal, 2005) Not surprisingly, such measures run in contrast with human right principles and triggered an extensive international criticism. Such opposition slowed down a little aggressive measure. The Egyptian government also tried to carry out the policy of carrot instead of stick by allowing the oppositions to occupy some minor public posts. (Kepel, 2005)

The tug of war between government and Islamic dissents carried out till after 1997 when in massive trial 98 oppositions were sentenced charges of subversion, four of whom were convicted to death penalty and eight to imprisonment for life. This triggered a new wave of terrorism fight back marked by terrorism attack to tourist bus in Cairo which lead to killing nine German tourists and injuring 11 others. This attack is still remained unclear as the government claimed that terrorist had no link with IG but evidences all support the strong connection IG members with the event, following this event two suspects of conducting the attack were executed. This severe reaction led to the tragedy of Luxor in which 70 people, including 58 foreign tourists, wore massacred by members of IG.

This over reaction learnt the Government to emphasis more on carrot policies. As such, they opened up a dialogue with moderate oppositions as part of a national reform. (Kassem, 2004) As a result, Muslim Brotherhood condemned the attack. Other political measures taken into account to combat terrorism was secret agreement between Egypt and the West for the identifying and extraditing IG leaders in exile. Since the public opinion no longer supporting the aggressive actions of terrorist, IG showed the signs of ceasefire in 1999. In 2000 Al-Jihad also paved the same way and declared the halt in terrorism attacks.

The ceasefire was short-lived when in October 2004, 34 people were killed in bomb attacks at Taba. These were followed by terrorists’ attacks in Sharm al-Sheikh in 2005, which led to 64 lose of life, and a series of bombings exploded in Dahab in April 2006, which killed 20 people. Yet, the government has linked these attacks to “terror cells” of local Bedouin from North Sinai, which have connections to al-Qaida.


The progress in tourism industry in Egypt was maddeningly slow in Nasser era; however, aftermath of Nasser’s death the country drew attention back to tourism industry and since as the official statistics indicates it has thrived and dramatically developed. The industry proved to be very vulnerable to the security incidents. In respond, the Egyptian government has undertaken a plethora of counter terrorism techniques. The balance sheet of their measures demonstrated a capacity of for rebounding strongly from such incidents, but a sustained campaign would be far more difficult.


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