On World Tourism Day, Egypt signals revival of tourism amid COVID-19

On the occasion of the World Tourism Day (WTD), Egypt held several activities in the popular Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, indicating the revival of its tourism sector amid the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Marking the WTD over the past three days, the activities were joined by 30 foreign ambassadors and their families as well as global reporters, accompanied by the Egyptian ministers of tourism and antiquities, civil aviation, information and environment.

The foreign ambassadors were satisfied with the anti-coronavirus precautionary measures implemented at Sharm el-Sheikh airport, hotels, hospitals and tourism facilities.

They also visited Sharm el-Sheikh Museum, which is scheduled to open in the coming days, and watched an Egyptian folklore performance as part of the activities.

A cycling marathon was also held and joined by the Egyptian tourism and aviation ministers, as well as the foreign ambassadors and their family members. The fun ride competition, which was won by the Cameroonian ambassador to Cairo, toured the streets of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The Cameroonian diplomat expressed happiness with winning the race, while German ambassador suggested holding an international cycling marathon in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Egyptian Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anany said after the cycling marathon that “Egypt’s celebration of the WTD in the presence of 30 foreign ambassadors and their families is a strong message to the whole world that Egypt enjoys security and safety over the novel coronavirus.”

He noted that tourism in Egypt is returning gradually.

Until Saturday night, Egypt has reported a total of 102,736 COVID-19 cases, including 5,869 deaths and 94,374 recoveries.

Amid declining COVID-19 infections and fatalities in Egypt, the country resumed international flights on July 1, after they had been suspended since March, as part of a coexistence plan to maintain anti-coronavirus precautionary measures while resuming economic activities.

“More than 250,000 tourists from 15 countries have visited South Sinai and the Red Sea since the return of tourism and flight resumption on July 1,” the tourism minister told reporters in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Al-Anany said he was proud of the country’s earnest implementation of the anti-COVID-19 precautionary measures at airports, hotels and tourism facilities, noting that he has recently visited several countries to reassure them about the safety of tourism in Egypt.

Egypt’s tourism sector, a main source of national income and foreign currency for the country, has been greatly affected by the lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic. Egypt’s tourism revenues hit a record high of 13 billion U.S. dollars in 2019.

Moreover, the gathering also launched the “Eco Egypt” campaign to promote natural reserves and ecotourism in the country as part of the WTD activities.

In a speech during the opening of the campaign, Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad stressed that despite the outbreak of COVID-19 and its worldwide impacts, work in Egypt did not stop.

“We will continue working so hard. So, when tourism is recovered, we will be fully prepared with a lot of new things to offer foreign tourists,” said the environment minister.

Tourists in Sharm el-Sheikh are not as many as before the COVID-19 outbreak, and the Egyptian government implements social distancing by keeping the maximum occupancy rate of hotels at 50 percent.

Those working in the tourism field in Egypt had mixed feelings of hope for tourism recovery and happiness with its gradual return after nearly five months of suspension.

“All workers in the sector feel a kind of victory over the novel coronavirus, especially with the ongoing influx of tourist groups. Although it is not yet at the required level, it is a very good start,” said Mina Tadros, an employee at one of Sharm el-Sheikh hotels.

“Not only the workers and employees who are happy, but a lot of tourists also expressed happiness with their return to Egypt,” the employee added.