“Come back to Egypt” has become a unified slogan for thousands of Egyptians calling for the return of tourists and expatriates to help the country through its transition.
During the first week of the 25 January revolution, Egypt’s economy lost an estimated US$1 billion as 1 million tourists fled the country.
In an attempt to rescue one of Egypt’s most important sources of income, various initiatives have been launched to encourage tourism.
A Facebook group called “Support the Egyptian Revolution by Visiting Egypt” is launching a campaign to promote tourist attractions such as Dahab, which is described by May Hussein, a member of the group, as a “little piece of paradise.”
“Come back to Egypt” is another Facebook group that calls on Egyptians to help the country’s economic status. A post on its wall says: “Until tourists come pouring back into Egypt, rediscover Egypt for yourself! Take your family to the pyramids! Go diving in the Red Sea! Enjoy the delicious seafood in Alex!”
Hundreds of Twitter users tweet daily messages with the same goal. One widespread message is: “So if we lost millions, I'm sure more tourists are coming back soon to experience our new Egypt, to stand in Tahrir Square, to walk on Qasr al-Nil bridge like an Egyptian and to take photos, not of the pyramids, but photos with Egyptians!”
Ismail, a student at the British University in Egypt, believes that people who used to visit the country for its civilization will now want to see not just the monuments, but the people who changed history in such a a short time.
Employees in the tourism sector–which provides jobs for more than 2.5 million Egyptians–have called for a march to Tahrir Square on Friday. All Egyptians are urged to participate in order to convey to the world that Egypt is completely safe to visit.
Hotel occupancy rates are less than 10 percent across the nation. But some tourism officials predict that business will start to regain its footing over the next two or three months.
Other Facebook groups such as “Egyptians of the world come back to Egypt to support your country” urge Egyptians living abroad to return. Lamia Shadid, a banker, said the revolution has awakened a sense of patriotism and ownership that has been buried as people lost faith that the country could ever return to its former glory.
“After toppling the corrupt regime, every Egyptian must be proud of their nationality. So we have to stop pursuing the dream of acquiring American nationality or any other,” Shadid said. “The whole world has changed its opinion about Egyptians who refused to remain silent about the oppressive regime.”
Salah Mohsen, a 52-year-old physician, called on Egypt’s youth working abroad to return, saying that the country is in dire need of their contributions to progress. Mohsen says Egyptians’ experience should not be used to benefit other countries. “During the next phase, the government must support and encourage the young generation in order to avoid what happened in the past with (scientists) Ahmed Zewail and Farouk al-Baz, whose contributions were highly appreciated abroad instead of in their own country.”
Mahmoud Baraka, a firm manager, agreed that the country must benefit from its workforce and revive recruitment processes to lower an unemployment rate that reached 14 percent last year.
“Egyptians are among the most skilled workers in the world, but during the past period, many firms were shut down due to a heavy dependence on imports, especially from China,” said Baraka. “This forced many citizens to search for work outside the country–such as in the Gulf.”
Baraka suggested Egypt could re-establish its industrial edifice by providing better living conditions for workers.
With a tide of Egyptian patriotism sweeping the nation it is possible that many Egyptian expats will want to return to their homeland, if the new government can make these suggestions a reality.