Egypt’s battered tourism industry sustained a shattering blow with the appointment to the position of governor of Luxor of a member of Gamaa Islamiya, the group that perpetrated the Luxor massacre that killed 62 people in November 1997.
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi appointed 17 new governors, eight of whom are said to be Islamist. But the appointment of Adel Mohammed Al-Khayat, a member of the group that perpetrated the grisly attack of 1997, as the governor of the province where the attacks took place was too much of an affront for many in the tourism industry and it set off a wave of protest, including the resignation of Egypt’s new tourism minister, Hesham Zazou.
Mohamed Hegazy, director-consul of the Egyptian Tourist Authority in New York, told TravelPulse.com that the prime minister did not accept the resignation of Zazou and the Egyptian government is now evaluating and negotiating the situation with the intention of minimizing any negative impact on Egypt’s tourism industry, which is crucial to the economic well being of the country. Hegazy said that no negative impact has yet been seen on the industry from the controversy. Hegazy said that the tourist authority in New York, like the rest of the travel industry, will have to wait to see what the outcome will be.
Tour operators expressed cautious concern as they watched events develop, waiting in hopes of a positive resolution to the controversy. Laudie Hanou, vice president of SITA World Tours, told TravelPulse.com that “the Egypt Tourism Board was making great progress, especially here in the United States, to rebuild the brand that is destination Egypt. It is unfortunate, that Hon. Minister Hisham Zaazou resigned. There is now widespread concern that this will further impact tourism and Egypt's return of business from the American market.”
Elie Sidawi, chairman of Sunny Land Tours, said that while the drop in tourism from the U.S. is unfortunate for Egypt, it has not hurt the tourist experience for those who go. “All I can say is, while tourism from the U.S. to Egypt dropped drastically, clients who booked trips to Egypt during the past two years, saved some 50 percent over applicable rates before the uprising,” he said. “The reports received from the vast majority of those clients visiting Egypt are overwhelmingly positive. The Egyptians are always welcoming tourists with open arms. We are offering trips to Egypt at large discounts, but sooner than later, these specials will be off the market.”