Long Term Effects of Attacks.
Rehab Saad writes about delayed reactions to the Dahab terrorist attacks.
That the October 2004 bomb attack on Taba was widely interpreted as a reaction to attacks taking place against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories led many to predict -- correctly, it turned out -- that the impact on tourist numbers visiting Sinai would be minimal. When Sharm El-Sheikh was attacked in July 2005 the impact on tourism, particularly in south Sinai, was much stronger. And many fear the industry is at the beginning of a real crisis.
"I am not happy and I don't know where it is all heading. We should respond somehow, but frankly I don't know what that response can be. The fact that these incidents are a recurring phenomenon is very disturbing," said Elhami El-Zayyat, president of Emeco Travel and ex-head of the Egyptian Tourism Federation.
Emeco Travel, a market leader in conference and incentive tourism, is reporting huge cancellations in conferences scheduled in the next few months. "This is very natural," says El-Zayyat. "This kind of expensive tourism is very sensitive to any negative developments." More worrying, he says, is that operators in Italy and France have told clients who had booked trips to Egypt before the attack that they can postpone their journey for up to 12 months at no additional cost.
"Of course there will be a negative impact but so far everything is normal. We are following up and monitoring occupancy rates and the reaction of tour operators. We are also monitoring aviation movement, both schedule and charter. Everything looks normal so far," says Hala El-Khatib, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Tourism.
The challenge now, she believes, is to "rebuild confidence in the destination, and this involves organising familiarisation trips for travel agents and tour operators as well as foreign journalists to come and investigate the area themselves".
The second challenge, says El-Khatib, concerns the rates charged: "We are trying hard to convince hotels not to decrease their rates because it will be extremely difficult to return to a higher rate once things get better."
Of Egypt's 170,000 hotel rooms 56,000 are in South Sinai, and they average a 93 per cent occupancy rate.