News / Middle East

Concerns Over New Parliament Add to Egypt’s Tourism Woes

The balcony of the Cairo Inn in central Cairo overlooks busy Talat Harb Square, only a short walk from iconic Tahrir Square, December 14, 2011.
The balcony of the Cairo Inn in central Cairo overlooks busy Talat Harb Square, only a short walk from iconic Tahrir Square, December 14, 2011.
Noel King

Egyptians working in the tourism industry say they fear conservatives in the nation's next parliament may have a negative impact on their business. About one in eight Egyptians works in tourism and a blow to the sector would further damage the struggling Egyptian economy.

Hotel in Tahrir

Baha Salah has owned and operated the Cairo Inn in central Cairo for three years. Salah says his 10-room hotel has a few big selling points. It is clean and comfortable. And it is only a short walk to attractions like the Egyptian Museum.

But the Cairo Inn is also only a few hundred meters from Tahrir Square.

And that has made it less attractive to tourists.

"They focus on Tahrir, which is not Egypt. It’s very - it amazes me. In TV, in the media, when they show Tahrir, people get scared. But Tahrir is not Egypt," said Salah. "I am near Tahrir, like two blocks away and I know the news from the TV."

Tourism

Egypt's tourism sector has struggled since the massive street protests that shook major cities in January and February and forced the ouster of long-time President Hosni Mubarak. A senior tourism official told Reuters news agency this week that tourism revenue is down by about 30 percent in 2011 from the previous year.

Still, Baha Salah says he could adapt to problems cause by insecurity. He says his bigger worry is Egypt’s next parliament.

Egypt is in the midst of three rounds of parliamentary elections. Nine of Egypt's governorates vote in each round. In the first round, conservative parties did unexpectedly well.

Concerns after elections

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood commanded around 37 percent of the vote. But what surprised many was the success of the more conservative Salafi parties, which took about 24 percent. Salafis want Egypt to adhere strictly to the principles of Islamic law.

For tourists this could mean a ban on alcohol and revealing swimwear on Egypt’s beaches. A spokesman with the Salafi Nour party recently told Egypt’s Dream TV that pharaonic monuments like the Sphinx are idolatrous and should be covered up.

Salafis

Baha Salah says he’s not certain that the Salafis know what’s best for Egypt.

"It’s crazy," said Salah. "I mean, they should get arrested for things like this. If it’s not coming from the head of the party, they should be investigated and not let it happen again, because it really scared people."

Tour guide Rami Aboud is also worried. He says the Salafi party appeared out of nowhere on the political scene - and he wonders if  they have the right experience to turn around the struggling economy.

"As for the Salafi, I can’t stand these people," said Aboud. "I can’t stand those people, they are just new people, appeared suddenly, called Salafi. They have a strong point against tourism, the method of tourists, dealing with the beaches, wearing bikinis.

"I think that’s not the problem. That’s not the big problem," he added. "The big problem in our country is to live. Most of the people is living from hand to mouth. So, you have to solve the basic problems."  

Egypt's Salafis say they don't want to hurt the tourism industry. They have put forth several suggestions for sin-free tourism, including gender-segregated beaches, and allowing tourists to drink alcohol - but only in their hotel rooms.

Conservatives and tourism

Maged Negm, Dean of Helwan University's Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management, Cairo, Egypt, December 14, 2011.
Maged Negm, Dean of Helwan University's Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management, Cairo, Egypt, December 14, 2011.

Maged Negm, the dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management at Helwan University in Cairo, says some of the Salafi suggestions for sin-free tourism are not pragmatic.

"We need to adapt people, to orient people and to [be] aware [of] how important this sector [is] to the whole of the country, to the individual and to the image of the country," said Negm.

Egypt's conservative parties do not seem united in their plans for the tourism sector. Some candidates from Salafi parties and the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party have disavowed statements that are viewed as harmful to the tourism industry.

Tour operators say they appreciate those statements, but they worry that for foreign tourists it only adds to the confusion over which direction Egypt is heading.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More