RIA Novosti - 3/2/2011
Egypt's tourist industry suffers huge losses, vacationers flee in wake
Egypt's popular tourist areas are suffering immensely from a slump in
revenues due to nationwide riots, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported
from the Red Sea resort city of Hurghada on Thursday.
Egypt has seen huge protests mainly in the largest cities of the North
African country since last month, with Tuesday's protestors reaching
into the millions demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down from
power. At least 150 people have been killed and some 4,000 injured in
riots throughout the country, with the largest masses seen in the
country's capital of Cairo.
Many foreign vacationers have either left Egypt after the riots began,
or have canceled their plans to visit the land of pharaohs altogether.
On a plane from Moscow to Hurghada, a popular resort for Russians, there
were only 20 passengers on board that usually carries between 150 and
200 on a regular charter flight. The Russian airliner landed in the
city's ghostly international airport where there was only one other
airplane from Syria that was preparing for takeoff.
An official from the Russian Federation of Tourism, Sergei Teodovorich,
who is based in Hurghada, said that there were some 20,000 Russian
tourists in the resort city on Sunday. He said another 15,000 Russians
were in another Red Sea resort, Sharm el-Sheikh. He said that in all
there were presently more than 40,000 Russian tourists in Egypt.
"The number of Russian tourists is drastically decreasing," Teodorovich
said, adding: "One Russian carrier, Transaero Airlines, flew 1,000
tourists out of Hurghada to Moscow on Tuesday and only 70 passengers
arrived in Hurghada from Moscow that same day."
However, hoteliers and merchants are still trying to welcome and please
everyone, though it is extremely difficult.
Bank machines throughout the country have been inoperable for days,
banks are closed and guarded by tanks at the front doors, and currency
exchange offices have shut their doors as well. Bank cards are useless
as the electronic banking system has crashed.
Business still remains business, however, and resort cities are
accepting just about any currency that is offered instead of the
official Egyptian pound because vacationers have no other way of paying
for merchandise, travel or living expenses.
Regular domestic flights from Hurghada to Cairo, which takes about an
hour, have been slashed from 10 flights per day to one, though that one
flight does not even have a specific time that it departs. Passengers
are requested to buy an open ticket and call the following morning to
find out the approximate time of departure for that day.
Another option is by bus, which takes around eight hours to get to
Cairo, but leaves no guarantee that you will get to your destination
since many main highways have been blockaded by the military and police.
Trains from Hurghada are also available but one needs to travel to Luxor
and then on to the capital, the entire trip taking at least 12 hours.
HURGHADA (Egypt), February 3 (RIA Novosti, David Burghardt)