News Analysis: Explosions near Giza pyramids unlikely to impact tourism flows to Egypt

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Photograph artwork copyright © Travel Gazette. www.travel-gazette.com / Nathan Morley
Photograph artwork copyright © Travel Gazette. www.travel-gazette.com / Nathan Morley

Recurrent explosions against tourist buses that took place near Egypt’s most important landmark, the Great Pyramids, have caused limited damages that are unlikely to impact the tourism flows coming to the north African country, according to security and tourism experts.

The terrorist groups plan to shake stability of the security conditions to impact the tourism revenues that serve the Egyptian economy in an acceptable way now, Khaled Okasha,a member of the National Council for Combating Terrorism, told Xinhua.

“The militants, who are remnant of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, chose the targets that will hinder the government’s efforts in reviving the economy that has been ailing for several years due to the eruption of two turmoil,” said Okasha.

On Sunday, an explosion targeting a tourist bus wounded at least 17 people near the Grand Egyptian Museum, next to the pyramids in Giza.

A device went off close to the museum which is expected to house the country’s top antiquities, as the bus was passing.

In December, three Vietnamese tourists and a local tour guide were killed after a roadside bomb hit their bus, also near the pyramids.

The two incidents have raised questions about whether security measures are adequate in such a strategic location.

Okasha stressed that the two operations have caused limited damages. “Rather than the casualties, the terrorists care much about the location, which is near the pyramids, a destination for most of the tourists, to negatively impact the image of Egypt.”

However, Waleed Batouty, a tour guide, said both explosions which caused few casualties have attracted the attention of the world and may be discouraging.

“No tourist comes to Cairo without visiting the Great Pyramids, and perhaps some of them might think twice now before heading to this historic site,” he said.

“The attackers wanted to undermine the tourism, one of the most important sources of national income,” Batouty added, highlighting at least seven million Egyptians are working in that significant field.

But he stressed the tourists near the pyramids after the most recent blast have been continuing their activities normally.

The tourism industry, a lifeline to the struggling Egyptian economy, has recently started to recover. Official figures show that growth rates are on the rise and tourists are coming back.

This vital sector plunged in 2015 when a Russian plane was downed over the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, with 224 people on board killed.

In 2017, 8.3 million tourists visited Egypt, according to official figures. A report by Forbes recently said that tourism revenues in Egypt have increased by 50 percent compared with the previous year.

Mokhtar Gobashy, vice president of the Cairo-based Arab Center for Strategic and Political Studies, said those incidents came as a result of the ongoing conflict between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood group and its different affiliations.

He agreed that the hardline militants hit the sources of reviving economy and the state new mega projects, such as the museum, to send a message of uncertainty to the world.

But he blamed the government for neglecting marketing the tourism sector and failing to secure the roads leading to the tourist sites.

One day after the bus explosion, Egyptian security forces killed 12 suspected Islamist militants in Cairo.

Gobashy called for more proactive security raids on the hotbeds of the terrorists before they harm the tourism sector.

The timing of the explosions is quite critical. Egypt is getting ready to host the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) next month.

The security expert said the tourists are more and more aware of the fact that the terrorists nowadays are targeting the whole world, not just Egypt.

Terrorist attacks are happening now in many European countries that are still witnessing improved flow of tourism, Okasha added.

He does not think that the two terrorist operations near the pyramids will affect the organization of the AFCON, explaining Egypt has a long history in orchestrating the sport events.

The AFCON will see large number of delegations and fans who would also pay visits to the tourist destinations, Okasha said.

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