Egypt: Individual Tourists Must Obtain Visa in Advance Starting in May
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In a decision that's not expected to impact tour groups, beginning on May 15, individual tourists planning a trip to Egypt will be required to obtain a visa from the embassy in their home country.
"The system remains unchanged for tourist groups which can obtain visas at airports, but individuals have to get a prior visa from embassies," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty via Reuters.
Media adviser to tourism minister Rasha Azaizi went on to point out that "the decision will have a small effect," adding that, "the industry depends on the large groups brought in by tour operators."
The motivation for the change is directly tied to security. According to Reuters, security sources said, "the decision arose from a need to give intelligence services more time to assess individuals who want to visit Egypt." With the nation having suffered immensely from an Islamist insurgency stemming from the Sinai Peninsula, the goal is to assist security officials in keeping both residents and travelers safe.
Nonetheless, the decision is sure to cast some doubt over the future of Egypt's sputtering tourism sector, which has taken a massive hit in recent years in the wake of political unrest.
In 2010, more than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt. However, that figure dropped significantly to 9.8 million in 2011 amid the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak. Although the number of tourists rose in 2012 to 11.5 million, it has since declined, with Egypt welcoming just 10 million tourists last year.
Despite recent struggles to attract visitors, the country has lofty goals for the future.
New Tourism Minister Khaled Ramy acknowledged that "Egypt hopes to generate $20 billion in revenue from tourism by 2020 by attracting 20 million visitors," according to Reuters.
While Egypt boasts tremendous history and a number of one-of-a-kind attractions, including both natural and man-made wonders, the country's tourism sector is sure to face plenty of challenges as it aims to return to where it was when the decade began, the latest being its tougher visa policy for individual travelers.
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