Locals keep tourism afloat at Egypt's sunny beaches

(18 Aug 2020) LEAD IN:
Egypt's tourism sector is making a slight recovery thanks to local travellers, but foreign tourists remain crucial to the business.

Local tourists can be seen in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of El Gouna but the sector needs foreign visitors to help it recover from the impact of the coronavirus.
Flights from Europe must resume to help push the sector forward and bring business to sustainable levels, says Joachim Shmitt, the chief executive officer of Orascom Hotels Management.
German tourists specifically would normally make up more than 50% of visitors at El Gouna.
Without their return, a comeback would be difficult.   
"That's the most important market for us," Shmitt says.
El Gouna is 20 kilometres away from the seaside city of Hurghada, another tourist destination by the Red Sea.
Some European visitors are making their way to the Red Sea resort town, famous for its sunny beaches and blue lagoons.
Polish tourists are flying to Hurghada on a handful of flights a week and visitors from England can now arrive on easyJet flights, says Christophe Lambrecht, the chief operating officer of The Three Corners hotels.
"This cannot fill the Red Sea but it brings hope and it brings confidence," says Lambrecht.
Swiss tourist Thomas Nyffenetter spent nine days in the Red Sea resort town after flying on an Edelweiss Air flight.
Since July 1, Egypt had opened select tourist destinations to international charter flights, allowing travellers from around the world to return to parts of the country less hard-hit by the coronavirus.
The government hopes to draw tourists to popular yet remote attractions that have been spared the ravages of the virus.
Hotels had to undergo an inspection and remote audit before being allowed to reopen, according to Tarek el-Shafei, the hospitality auditing manager at TÜV NORD Egypt.
"Not all hotels are open in the Red Sea governorate, only the hotels that fulfilled all the requirements," he says.
Egypt's economy depends heavily on tourism, which accounts for some 12% of the gross domestic product.
The government has feared that a prolonged lockdown could be devastating economically, as the grounded international flights and empty hotels have taken a heavy toll.

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egypt, beaches, tourism
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