Confusion surrounds new Egypt visa rules

By Juliet Dennis | 25 March 2015 at 08.30 GMT

New regulations are expected on May 15 as part of a security crackdown to deter terrorists from travelling to Egypt.

The UK office of the Egyptian State Tourist Office said talks were ongoing, with exact details due at the end of this week.

But Egypt ministry of tourism spokeswoman Rasha Azaizi said anyone booking a trip independently, and not being met by a ground-handling agent, would need a visa in advance.

Holidaymakers booking through an operator will not be affected, but it was unclear whether tourists who book flight-only or accommodation-only through an agent would continue to be able to obtain a visa upon arrival.

“These changes will just apply to independent travellers,” said Azaizi. “Those people handled by an operator or local ground-handler will not be affected: they need to be met by a ground-handler because that’s who will get the visas for them at the airport.”

She was adamant there would be no major impact for trade business from the UK.

Andy Tomlinson, director of Sutton Travel in Sutton Coldfield, said more travellers could even be encouraged to book via the trade.

He said: “It could work in favour of operators and agents. But it is still up in the air in terms of who needs it [a visa in advance].

“I was worried about DIY packages we put together ourselves, but our clients are met on arrival by a ground-handler.”

Discover Egypt director Philip Breckner said: “As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t affect our customers, but it is confusing.”

Visas are not required for UK visitors travelling to the Red Sea resorts of Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba and Taba for up to 15 days, and there was no indication this would change.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Tour operators unite to push Egypt message

Three Pharaohs At Karnak Temple, Egypt

By Sophie Griffiths,

Specialist Egypt tour operators have united to form a “quasi think-tank” in a bid to push the message out to the trade that the country is safe and open for business.

The group, which comprises tour operators such as Discover Egypt, Orbital Travel, Soliman Travel, Cyplon Holidays, Mosaic Holidays and Red Sea Holidays, is being been coordinated by the country’s flag carrier, EgyptAir.

“The idea is to see how we can all get the message out to the trade that the country is safe,” Discover Egypt’s commercial director Philip Breckner told TTG.

This week marks the third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, which took place on January 25. The last Foreign Office travel restrictions for Luxor and Cairo were lifted in November 2013. Last month the FCO also lifted advice for middle Egypt, allowing cruises to sail along the Nile between Luxor and Cairo.

But Breckner said specialist operators were still struggling to encourage agents and clients to realise that the country remains open for business.

“There haven’t been any Foreign Office restrictions [for the areas we visit] in Egypt for 15 months. Egyptian locals can’t understand why the tourists aren’t coming,” he said.

“No one can give you a 100% safety guarantee for wherever you are, but the difference is that on a tour, you’re escorted and the tour wouldn’t go ahead if it wasn’t safe. All good tour operators go above and beyond FCO advice, and also consult Egyptian authorities on the ground.

“As tour operators, we need to be doing more to educate the trade about the situation in the country.”

“The trade should never close their doors on a destination, because everywhere is going to go through something at some point”

Gemma Antrobus, Haslemere Travel

Gemma Antrobus, managing director of Surrey-based Haslemere Travel, said agents should also be taking on the responsibility of educating consumers about Egypt. “We used to do a substantial amount of business to classical Egypt,” she said. “It used to be a good seller, but it dropped off after the revolution.

“It is our responsibility as travel agents to educate clients that it is still safe to travel there, and if agents feel uncertain about a destination, then it’s their role to educate themselves about it – it also shows consumers why it’s best to book with a travel agent, because we can answer any concerns that they have.

“The trade should never close their doors on a destination, because everywhere is going to go through something at some point.”

Meanwhile, Breckner conceded that the press attention surrounding Islamic State militants in the Middle East and the recent terrorist attack in Paris would likely have an impact on people’s perceptions of Egypt. However, he insisted that numbers to the classical sites were “creeping up”.

“We are taking double the bookings this month that we were taking last January, but we are still a long way from the peak of 2010. We’re also seeing an increase in demand for business for 2016.”

He also said that there still remained an issue surrounding prices. “People expect it to be much cheaper, but it’s a region that is trying to recover. There’s no point in offering cheap cruises because low prices typically lead to poor service.”

Breckner added that Discover Egypt was also offering fam trips to any agents requesting them, either as solo trips or part of a bigger group.

Sourced by TTG Digital

Tui chief to meet with Egypt’s President Sisi

Tui chief to meet with Egypt’s President Sisi

Tui chief to meet with Egypt's President SisiTui Travel deputy chief executive Johan Lundgren is to travel to Egypt to meet with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Lundgren will meet the president on November 17 as part of a delegation of 15 tour operators and industry figures and will explain that confidence in Egypt as a destination is improving for Tui customers.

The company’s customer numbers to Egypt have increased year on year for this winter.

Lundgren plans to discuss with the president how Tui can work more closely with the Egyptian authorities and other stakeholders to successfully grow the number of the operators’ customers back to the levels seen in previous years.

As a result of this stability, Tui UK&I was the first UK tour operator to return to Luxor earlier this year and will double the capacity next year when it introduces a flight from Manchester. Additionally, the UK and German source markets have also introduced the resort of Marsa Alam into their programmes.

Commenting on his forthcoming meeting with the president, Lundgren said: “We have long been the market leader to Egypt and our customers love going there.

“It has the attraction of being a year-round destination and we have partnered for many years with key suppliers to provide fantastic hotels and service, ensuring that we give our customers great experiences and keep our leadership position.

“In the UK, customer satisfaction levels are at the highest they have ever been and across the group, source markets that have not traditionally had Egypt in their programme are now featuring it with strong demand.

“We have had successive open and friendly dialogue with government and the tourism authorities over the years and I look forward to sharing our views and plans with the president.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Visitors to Egypt warned about demonstrations

By Phil Davies,

British travellers to Egypt have been warned to avoid demonstrations due to be staged across the country today (Friday).

The updated Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice came amid ongoing protests and clashes within university campuses across Egypt.

Further clashes were reported yesterday as Islamist students protested in an eastern district of the capital where the defence ministry building is located after military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi resigned to run for president

He led the overthrow of former president Mohammed Morsi following mass opposition protests as commander-in-chief last July.

The FCO said: “Protests, marches and demonstrations are common across Egypt. Demonstrations often happen on Fridays, but can occur at any time and with little prior notice.

“Following political developments and court judgments in the past week, demonstrations have been called across the country on March 28.

“The atmosphere at demonstrations can change quickly and without warning. Police may use water cannon, tear gas, birdshot or live ammunition for crowd control.

“There have been several violent clashes since July 2013 resulting in a large number of deaths.

“Most of the clashes have taken place in Cairo and Alexandria. At protests in Cairo, Alexandria and Fayoum on 24 and 25 January 2014 there were at reports of around 80 deaths. There are ongoing protests and clashes within university campuses across the country.

“If you become aware of any nearby protests, leave the area immediately. Don’t attempt to cross road blocks erected by the security forces or protesters. Make sure you keep valid photographic identification with you at all times. Take particular care in areas with a history of regular protests.

 “At protests on 24 and 25 January westerners, including British Nationals, were singled out and attacked by some protestors.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Numbers point to Egypt tourism slump

Numbers point to Egypt tourism slumpBy Phil Davies
Image via Shutterstock

Strife-torn Egypt has suffered a 28% drop in tourists so far this year, a new report claims.

European tourists visiting the country in January and February are down by 24% when compared to 2013 figures, Mail Online reported, citing statistics released by Egypt’s Ahram newspaper.

They contribute to an overall 28% decline when visitors form other key markets, such as the Middle East and Arab countries, are taken into account.

One of the biggest losses was from the Asia-Pacific region, with 42% less visitors to Egypt than during the same period last year.

The country’s tourism sector accounts for roughly 9% of GDP, but has experienced several setbacks since president Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down in 2011.

Egypt received a record 14.7 million visitors in 2010 but numbers dipped to just 10 million in 2011 before climbing again to 11.5 million in 2012.

The latest statistics for 2013 are still not available but Eygpt is normally a popular winter sun destination.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not declared Red Sea resorts off-limits, but has advised against all travel beyond the resort area.

Four people were killed when a tourist bus was attacked in Taba in South Sinai last month, close to the Israeli border at Eilat.

Many operators stopped running excursions from Red Sea resorts to nearby St Catherine’s Monastery – the Greek Orthodox monastery that dates back to the 6th century – following the attack.

Security at resorts was stepped up but Germany issued a travel warning against visits to the peninsular.

The FCO said: “Enhanced security measures are in place to protect the Sharm el-Sheikh resort areas.

“Egyptian military are situated in Sharm el-Sheikh international airport, at check points around the perimeter of Sharm el-Sheikh and throughout the South Sinai Governorate.

“Routine security checks are being performed on entry into the airport and the police are carrying out vehicle checks in Sharm el-Sheikh.

“There were no violent protests in the South Sinai resorts during recent disturbances in Egypt.”

Tourists are also free to travel to city destinations, such as Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria but are advised to avoid all protests.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Egypt tourism minister doubts credibility of tourist threat

Egypt tourism minister doubts credibility of tourist threat By Lee Hayhurst

Image via ShutterstockThe Egyptian minister of tourism has dismissed as not credible a reported threat to tourists by the terrorist group responsible for the deadly attack on Sunday.

In a statement following the attack which saw three South Korean visitors killed, Hisham Zaazou expressed “deep sorrow” over the tragic incident.

But he went on to cast severe doubt over reports that the group that claimed responsibility for the attack, Jamaat Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, had issued an ultimatum to all foreign tourists to leave Egypt.

This threat was said to have been made on Twitter and set a deadline of today for all visitors to leave.

Zaazou said: “The attributed communiqué is not credible and has no grounds, as the Jamaat itself has repeatedly confirmed in all previous communiqués that it has no accounts on any social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook etc.

“The Jamaat has no official email account and does not communicate either with any official or non-official bodies

“Finally, it is worth mentioning that many well respected and trusted media forums, think tanks, journalists, travel editors, columnists and news correspondents have been sceptical of and questioned the credibility of the account and the declaration altogether.”

Despite Egypt’s recent troubles and civil unrest, to date tourists have not been targeted, something Zaazou has previously been keen to stress.

Referring to the attack on a tourist bus on Sunday which also killed the Egyptian driver and injured 14 others, he said:

“I seize this moment to offer my sincerest condolences to the people and government of South Korea as well as the families of the victims.

“I confirm that the investigations are still ongoing and that all concerned parties are keen and adamant on delivering the exact truth and facts pertaining to such a despicable act.

“We at the ministry of tourism are ensuring that all security bodies are undertaking the necessary precautionary measures to guarantee that such an incident to the extent possible will not occur again.

“The perpetuators and the guilty will be detained and prosecuted. Justice will be served. Law and order will prevail.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Egypt discusses incentives to restore air capacity

Egypt discusses incentives to restore air capacityBy Ian Taylor

Image via ShutterstockEgyptian tourism minister Hisham Zaazou met leading UK tour operators in London yesterday to brief them on the situation in the country and agree incentive measures aimed at restoring capacity.Egypt has lost one-third of its air capacity from the UK since July last year when protests and military action to overthrow president Morsi led to several massacres of protestors and the Foreign Office advised against travel to all but the Red Sea resorts.

The minister reported Egypt still drew almost one million UK visitors last year and he is aiming to attract at least 1.1 million this year following the relaxation of Foreign Office advice in November.

Direct flights from London to Luxor will resume next week when Egyptair reinstates weekly services from Heathrow. Flights depart on Monday from February 17.

Zaazou told Travel Weekly: “We had a bad year in 2013. We lost about one-third of capacity and it’s having a negative effect. But there is demand.”

He said the ministry has an enlarged budget for social media and internet marketing this year and will support “any out-of-the-box ideas” from the industry.

Zaazou met leading representatives of tour operators including Thomas Cook, Tui Travel and Monarch Group yesterday and told them: “We are moving into a new phase. Egypt has changed. It is not going back to what it was.”

He insisted: “There is nothing to fear in Cairo.” But he added: “I can’t bang my head against a wall. Tourism is about perception.”

The tourism authority is poised to launch a campaign emphasising The Romantic Nile and Red Sea Riviera as distinct parts of the country.

The country recorded 9.5 million overseas visitors in total last year despite the violent upheaval of July and August, just two million below the number in 2012. But it was some way below the best-ever year of 2010 when Egypt welcomed 14.7 million visitors.

Egypt has been at the forefront of the Arab Spring since early 2011 when millions of people took part in the overthrowing of president Mubarak.

Sourced from Travel Weekly