Tour Operators: Security Worked in Egypt
PHOTO: Karnak Temple at Luxor, Egypt. (Photo by David Cogswell)
Tour operators involved in the Egypt tourism market are seeing Wednesday’s thwarted terrorist attack near Karnak Temple in Luxor as evidence that Egypt’s security systems are working to protect tourists and citizens.
“Considering what’s going on in the rest of the world it’s pretty positive,” said Phil Otterson, president of Abercrombie & Kent. “There is a lot of security that Egyptians have put into place over time and it worked.”
The attackers were successfully prevented from reaching the temple or the tourists and causing damage.
“At Luxor there is a big parking lot,” said Otterson. “Then you have the area where you buy tickets and go through security, and then you enter Luxor Karnak Temple. Security found these individuals as they were getting out of a car in the parking lot, well away from tourists and the temple itself. And they were able to somehow understand that they looked suspicious and two of them were killed and one was injured and taken into custody. No one else was injured, no tourists were affected. It didn’t interrupt tourism in the region. The big story is that they knew what they were doing and they were able to thwart any kind of event.”
Tour operators are not surprised that there is still violent opposition to the government of Egypt. But they were happy that the attacks are still being contained and no tourists have been harmed.
According to Ronen Paldi, president of Ya’lla Tours, although two attacks have taken place near tourist sites, it was not tourists who were targeted.
“My people in Cairo tell me the terrorists are not targeting any tourist, just uniformed people,” said Paldi. “They want support from the people and they know that tourism is the number one and fastest vehicle for economic recovery. The attacks are targeting military and police officers, and since the officers are visible at the tourist attractions it makes them an easy target. But the fact remains that no tourist is being targeted and no tourist was hurt. And, the security measures set in the tourist attractions are working and prevented any losses.”
“The quick and effective response is a reflection of how seriously the Egyptians take security, including looking after visitors,” said Ralph Hammelbacher, vice president, expedition development.
For Egypt tour operators, it is not just a matter of their own revenue. They can make up their losses in Egypt through their operations in other tourism markets. Those who operate tours to the region are involved with the destination and its people, and they want to see Egypt come back to a state of peace and prosperity. They see tourism as Egypt’s best hope. And they see Egypt’s success as crucial to the stability of the Middle East.
“This does not impact our stand on Egypt in terms of the long-term commitment,” said Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Big Five Tours and Expeditions. “With almost 50 percent of Egypt’s population around 18 years old and tourism supporting one in eight jobs, there is a larger picture that must be conveyed, and that is the gender gap that exists there. This has really been amplified in the last five years and can only be solved by tourism, which is not only the number one employer in Egypt, it is also one of the largest employers of women. Tourism being supported and growing is the best way to bring about gender equality in a country that is actually best poised to solve it because of the amount of youth in the population.”
It is hoped that the recent incidents will further inform Egyptian security on how to prevent future attacks.
“Security in and around monuments has always been a cornerstone of selling safe travel to Egypt,” said Richard Krieger, president of Isramworld. “Although no tourists were hurt, security is concern number one for The Isramworld Portfolio of Brands and we trust that the enhanced security measures announced by Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism will prevent any further incidents.”
Apparently tour operators and their clients are undeterred by the incident.
“Our guests to Egypt are intrepid,” said Bob Drumm, president of Alexander + Roberts. “Today, we’ve spoken with all travelers and agents with bookings for the balance of the year to offer the opportunity to cancel without penalty. Not one has decided to cancel their trip. There is no State Department Warning or Alert. We plan to operate.”
“Ya’lla Tours continues to its commitment to a safe secure travel to Egypt,” said Ya’lla’s Paldi, “and we are glad that many of our customers put their trust in us, as we are seeing a constant increase in the demand for Egypt for 2015 and 2016.”
“Our numbers are on the rebound,” said A&K’s Otterson. “Things are looking good for Egypt and have been for some time. A lot of the issues are behind us. These kinds of things happen all over the world. Hopefully it’s not going to make a difference in people being able to satisfy that pent-up demand... to go to Egypt.”
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