Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Egypt, crowd-free travel is the new normal

The National (Susan Hack)

Two months after the start of largely peaceful demonstrations that drove former president Hosni Mubarak from power on February 11, foreign tourists are returning to Egypt in a trickle rather than a flood. Uncrowded beaches, the lack of queues at tombs and museums, plus discounts offered by hotels and Nile cruise ships make the next six months a unique time to travel to the cradle of civilisation, according to officials hoping that exhilaration over the country's youth revolution - and Egypt's compelling combination of sunshine and pharaonic antiquities - will eventually translate into a tourism rebound.

"Welcome back," reads the optimistic cover of this month's issue of Horus, the in-flight magazine of Egyptair, which was forced to cancel 75 per cent of its flights in February. As Egypt lost an estimated US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) in tourism revenue amid an 80-per-cent drop in tourist arrivals compared with the February to April period last year, tour operators diverted clients to cultural destinations in Turkey and beaches in the Canary Islands. (Russia, yet to lift its Egypt travel warning, has sent many of its sun-seeking holidaymakers to Dubai).

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