NEW YORK -- The Egyptian government cut by 50% domestic fares on
the national carrier and waived visa and other tourism-related fees
in an effort to lure back travelers. Egypt's $3.2-billion-a-year
tourism industry is at a near standstill following an Islamic
militant groups' terrorist attack in Luxor on Nov. 17, which left
58 tourists dead.
The Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA) here said that, effective
Dec. 1 for travel through March 1, travelers will pay half-fares on
Egyptair's domestic flights and will not be charged a $15 per
person visa fee to enter the country. Additionally, various fees on
services at airports and seaports have been canceled, also until
March 1. These include landing and navigational aid fees and port
charges, a spokeswoman for the ETA said.
However, these reductions on the cost of traveling to and within
Egypt are the tip of the iceberg, said tour operators who are in
negotiations with U.S. and Egyptian suppliers to package
substantially discounted tours.
Elie Sidawi, president of Hackensack, N.J.-based Sunny Land
Tours, which specializes in Egypt, said he is working with
airlines, Nile cruise operators and hotel companies to offer deeply
discounted programs designed to "revive and regenerate" tourism
interest in the North African nation. Sidawi, who noted that his
firm has lost 80% of its lucrative high-season revenue this year,
said he was optimistic that the combination of lower prices and
tighter security would bring tourists back. "Security was never
lacking, but now it is wide-reaching," he said, citing the
following recent initiatives:The posting of military personnel at all tourism sites.Private security forces hired by Nile River operators."Stiff enforcement" of identification policies at hotels in
Cairo and other large cities.
"This is not to say that nothing could happen, but people will
feel more assured. The message has been delivered," Sidawi said. He
added that Sunny Land has not yet altered its pricing, since "we
aren't taking many reservations now."
Eunice Roy, manager of New York-based Misr Travel, said the
trade can expect discounted promotional packages to be unveiled
after Jan. 1. She said that Misr, which is 51% owned by the
Egyptian government, has lost two-thirds of its bookings for the
high season and does not expect to recoup the revenue. "The big
groups all have canceled -- the museum groups, for instance, where
we had 50 or 60 people booked. Museums and other organizations all
are terrified of being sued [as a sponsor of a trip] if something
happens." For now, she noted, clients who book their transatlantic
flight with Egyptair already receive 50% off any domestic segments,
but she said that any appropriate savings would be passed along to
Following the attack, the U.S. State Department recommended that
U.S. citizens not travel to Upper Egypt. The department said the
recommendation is valid until at least Feb. 17. Meanwhile, the
organization called the Islamic Group, which took responsibility
for the attack, released a statement to news organizations on Dec.
8 saying it no longer planned to target tourists as a way to weaken
the Egyptian government.
A group of U.S. travel agents visiting Egypt on a fam trip with
the operator Gate 1 were in the country at the time of the
terrorist attack in which 58 tourists were murdered at a Luxor
temple. Viewers of the ABC network television news program
"Nightline" earlier this month saw footage of the group, which was
filmed in Cairo a few days after the attack.
Seen dancing and singing with Egyptian citizens, an unidentified
agent told the television interviewer that no destination was
guaranteed to be safe, citing terrorist attacks in New York and
Later, Glenside, Pa.-based Gate 1 issued a statement detailing
the "fam trip evaluation" reports from the agent group. According
to the operator, the group felt "secure and satisfied" with the
trip, with one participant calling it "one of the most memorable
tours I have ever taken. The Egyptian experience is unique."
Another agent was quoted as saying "The Egyptians were friendly,
warm and humorous."
Sixty-five agents remained on the fam tour following the Luxor
rampage, and five opted to return immediately to the U.S.