Egyptian Tourism Minister Zuhair Garranah on Wednesday announced before parliament Egypt's projected tourist bookings in 2011 have fallen by roughly 65 percent. According to Garranah, the recent spate of shark attacks near the Sinai resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh is to blame for the anticipated sharp decline.
One shark attack claimed the life of a German tourist, while four other vacationers–a Russian and three Ukrainians–were mauled just one week before the fatal attack.
But the shark attacks, while continuing to receive top news coverage, are not the only important elements in changing the way international tourists see Egypt. The oil spills in Hurghada in June 2010 disrupted summer plans for some tourists. And multiple road accidents that took the lives of vacationers throughout the year adversely affected tourism, as well.
Tourism Promotion Authority official Sami Mahmoud declared this December that measures adopted in 2010 by the Ministry of Tourism have served to offset this troublesome trend.
“We will have had 15 million tourists by the end of December, generating a total income of US$13 billion,” Mahmoud said. He attributed the strong turnout to a promotional campaign launched by the ministry in Europe, Asia, the United States and several Arab countries.
For Egyptians, local tourism has been a favorite this year, either due to the current financial situation in Egypt or the difficulty in obtaining visas. Our local travel coverage has spanned from coast to coast of Egypt and through the desert. Our recommendations for new and exciting local travel for 2011 include:
1. Catch a trip to Siwa and the Black and White desert on safari through Bahariya before the weather gets too hot for camping.
2. As the weather gets a little warmer, consider Dahab and Nuweiba for a relaxing and low key visit to the beach.
3. Want to take a trip off the map, the AMAY coverage of Shalateen and down to the border of Egypt on the Red Sea is likely to inspire your sense of adventure.
4. Camp in Ras Mohamed or stay mainland and travel down to Qussair, where an old hotel built back in the 1800s–named the Qusair Hotel–is really worth a visit. And stay, if not for anything else, but the great food.
5. Venture on a trip Abu Simbel, location of the biannual Abu Simbel Sun Festival and pass by the Virgin Church in Assuit, a city with a great view over the Nile, and beautiful greenery.