If anything can save Egypt from its most recent spate of
tourism-crippling headlines, it might be one particularly famous ancient
A recently published paper by British Egyptologist
Nicholas Reeves has proposed that there could be additional chambers beyond
King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. And further, that one
of those chambers might be the undisturbed burial site of Queen Nefertiti.
“If Mr. Nicholas Reeves, the archaeologist who has
proposed this theory, is correct, it will be the most exciting news for Egypt
since the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922 by Howard Carter,” said
Rami Girgis, a university-trained Egyptologist and product manager for
Abercrombie & Kent’s Private Jet and Special Interest Travel divisions.
Much of Egypt’s tourism industry has been closely
monitoring the developments in and around Tutankhamen’s tomb with the hopes
that a major discovery, such as the unearthing of the tomb of one of the most
influential ancient Egyptian royals, could help reignite the country’s battered
tourism sector, which is entering its fifth year of struggles since the Arab
Spring uprisings of 2011.
Following the election of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi
in May 2014, Egypt’s travel industry was hopeful that the country was on the
path to a more stable and thus more lucrative future. And up until about midway
through 2015, it appeared that things were heading in a positive direction.
Then, last September, news agencies reported that eight
Mexican citizens who were traveling on a desert oasis tour had been killed in
an air attack by Egyptian police and military forces. And in October, the
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian passenger jet
over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that killed 224 people.
Following the downing of the Russian plane, occupancy at
hotels in Cairo has averaged about 50% to 60%, according to Girgis, who noted
the Arab/Gulf market is compensating for weakness in the North American and
“The same cannot be said for the Nile cruise ships, which
are still struggling,” said Girgis, adding, “The Red Sea resorts are now
relying heavily on the local markets, Egyptians and foreign expats.”
But Egypt’s tourism authorities are optimistic that a
discovery such as Queen Nefertiti’s tomb could help repave the path to
“I believe such a discovery will entice new visitors to
come and explore our country, as most tourists from the U.S. are cultural
tourism lovers, and it will be a new aspect about old Egypt for those
tourists,” said Gawaher Ali, consul-director of USA, Canada and Latin America
for the Egyptian Tourist Authority, the country’s tourism promotion entity.
Ali said that the tourism situation in Egypt is
recovering following the Russian plane crash and that stricter measures have
been put in place in Egypt’s airports after the country contracted with an
international company to oversee and manage airport security.
She said she believed that tourism would rebound in Egypt
“strongly” in 2016 due to promotional efforts the Egyptian Tourist Authority is
implementing in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.
As far as Girgis is concerned, the news and excitement
surrounding the possibility of finding Nefertiti’s tomb is exactly the kind of
positive public relations the country needs to pull itself out of its latest
“The biggest challenge will be the decision to break into
this area, which will damage the wall of Tutankhamen’s tomb” Girgis said.
“They are exploring their options and whether it might
work to drill down from the top, a long, manual process that could take months.
The good news is that it’s winter season in Egypt, which is the prime time for
archeological digs, so we are hopeful that they may have something tangible by
[the middle of 2016].”
And if they do find something, he said, “it will be a
game-changer for Egypt’s tourism industry.”