On November 3, we were invited by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism to a WTM London dinner where minister Hisham Zaazou told trade partners and the media that Egypt had “come a long, long way” in attracting visitors back after the 2011 revolution and subsequent incidents – and that even the tragic Metrojet crash of the previous week would not hold the country back.
Then less than 24 hours later, the UK made the shock decision to ground all flights to Sharm el Sheikh over concerns that security was not tight enough – destroying the belief the UK trade has hung onto throughout Egypt’s difficulties that, whatever might happen elsewhere, “Sharm is safe”.
Having been quite confidently telling friends and family that myself, the suggestion that the airport’s security has been so lax to date is distressing.
But with authorities now scrambling to improve standards, it seems likely the international community will feel confident flying to Sharm once more. And a fresh focus on airport security more widely – in those regions of the world where it is genuinely required – is good news for the global tourism industry.
Agents we’ve spoken to this week have had a mixed response from customers, with some desperate to change their holiday away from Egypt, and other agents not expecting to see a long-term impact once flights resume.
And how heartening to see holidaymakers in Sharm declaring their support with banners in Soho Square. Not that these are the sort of images or sentiments the national newspapers have focused on in their recent coverage.
The positivity around the future of Egypt’s tourism industry that was lost overnight will take somewhat longer than 24 hours to be regained – but if the situation can be resolved before the winter season starts, it shouldn’t be too long-lasting.