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Egypt safe for tourists despite regional uncertainty, insists minister

Peter Oliver in Berlin


Ancient records suggest Egypt has been welcoming tourists for around 5,000 years, so it's not going to be stopped by a mere pandemic.  

Ahmed Issa, the Egyptian minister for tourism and antiquities, says the 2023 figures show that his country's visitor numbers have bounced back from the COVID wilderness.

‌"I'm very proud of the record numbers that the Egyptian tourism industry have generated during 2023," he tells CGTN. "They show to what extent people truly enjoy my country, whether on the beaches side or on the River Nile, or on the pyramids or the cultural activities."

German tourists topped the list ‌with 1.6 million visits in 2023, followed by visitors from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Italy and the UK.

However, the Israel-Gaza conflict and the Houthis disrupting shipping in the Red Sea are all on Egypt's doorstep. Following the Hamas attack on Israel in October, the minister said the Egyptian government made steps to let the country's tourism industry know it would be supported.

‌"On October 12, we sent 300 letters to the chief executives and the senior management of the companies which populate the supply chain of the Egyptian product, Egyptian tourism products around the world," says Issa. "We gave them a very simple message. We understand that risks have just gone up for you on October 7.

"We are here to de-risk the product for you and we're going to work with you in partnership to ensure that we continue to get the airlift necessary for you to sell the product. And at the same time, we're going to add to our core marketing budget so you can be able to continue to explain to your customers how Egypt continues to be safe."

The Great Sphinx and pyramids lure visitors from around the globe. /Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters
The Great Sphinx and pyramids lure visitors from around the globe. /Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

The Great Sphinx and pyramids lure visitors from around the globe. /Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Asked why he's so certain, the minister points to Egypt's geography. "Most people don't realise that Egypt is nearly double the size of France," he explains. "And that the Gaza border is between 300 kilometers to 1,000 kilometers from the nearest tourism city, that most British tourists and other European tourists will visit."

‌Issa's remit also covers Egypt's antiquities, which have attracted tourists for millennia. The Romans went on holidays to Egypt, the poets of the renaissance went there for inspiration and Agatha Christie set her 1930s classic novel about murder on the Nile among tourists going to Aswan, so why has a romantic intrigue with Egypt persisted down through the centuries?


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‌"Egypt brings a lot of romance," says Issa, "because the amount of drama that 3,000 years of history BCE bring to the world, the fact that those group of humans called Egyptians have lived on that part of the world for thousands of years, the way they have advanced concepts like how do we live together in a community, how do governments work, how does a country work, and how our country is governed - and more importantly, how do we need to live today as good humans? 

"As you enter the next life, the eternal life, your heart is going to be weighed. And if you've done good in your life, if you've been an honest person during your first life, your next, your eternal life is going to be good to you. These are concepts that were developed and became ingrained as mainstream values of the society."

Egypt safe for tourists despite regional uncertainty, insists minister

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