Monday, January 31, 2011

Protests and Violence in Egypt Affecting Tourism

The riots and protests that broke out last week in Egypt have caused unrest in the country, causing many travelers to cut their trips short or cancel them altogether. But the violence erupting in the country are not only causing social and political problems, but it's also affecting tourism and the economy. According to an article from MSNBC, the event is raising concerns of widespread affects, with problems trickling over into other Middle Eastern countries. It's an understandable concern, since many travelers have decided to cancel their vacations, tour groups are avoiding Egypt, airlines are stopping flights into Cairo and thousands of U.S. citizens are evacuating the country.

It couldn't be happening at a worse time, as this is high season for tourism in Egypt. Tourism is a major industry for Egypt, with 300,000 visitors coming in every year--and that's just from the United States. With more and more Cruises evading Egypt on their routes, and tour groups opting not to visit, investors are growing concerns that it will spread elsewhere. In fact, Dubai's stock market index fell 4% Sunday, while Kuwait fell 2% and Qatar, 3%. With the prospect of the Suez Canal closing, oil prices spiked, causing even more issues for tankers and large boats.

As far as the U.S. tourists, students and residents over in Egypt, many of them are deciding to head home, despite some strong desires to stay. The Today Show spoke to many people who live in the country, and they say that even with their established lives there, it seems smart to leave. Hundreds of tourists were held up in their hotels, nervous to walk the streets. Students studying abroad were less worried about getting hurt than their families at home, which was the main reason for many of them evacuating. At first, there was not much concern for their safety, but over the weekend as things escalated, it seemed the Egyptian government would be unable to protest foreign travelers, as it can barely manage itself. 

The Middle East's troubles have always been an issue, especially with the violence in Egypt occurring after events in Yemen, Lebanon and Tunisia. But even with past terrorist attacks and turmoil, tourism has always managed to bounce back, because people still want to see those parts of the world. No matter what, tourists will continue to venture over to Egypt to see the Pyramids and sail the Nile River.

Since it is unknown, however, how long the political upheaval will last, it's safe to assume that travel to Egypt will take a huge beating over the next few months. Travel agencies across the U.S. are predicting that anyone who has a trip planned there will probably attempt to cancel, and there will be very few inquiries about vacations there this year.

With any luck, the riots and protests will fizzle out over the next couple weeks, the country will figure out a peaceful solution to their problems, and people can return to their lives. I certainly hope that things improve quickly, as Egypt is one of the places on my list I want to visit. Then again, it should all be resolved by the time I have enough money and vacation days to go. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

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