Security concerns following protests against an anti-Islam film earlier this month caused Egyptian tourism to suffer another blow, a year after recovering from the drop that followed the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Royal Caribbean International decided its Mariner of the Seas vessel, which left Italy on Sept. 15, shouldn’t layover at Alexandria three days later, according to the Associated Press. This was because there was still mounting tension over the “Innocence of Muslims” film. Violent protests against the film have spread from Egypt to other parts of the Muslim world.
Cynthia Martinez, director of global corporate communications at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., told the AP that the cancellation was “in an abundance of caution.” That ship has the ability to carry more than 3,000 passengers.
Tourism is a major source of income in Egypt and former tourism minister Mounir Fakhry Abdul Nourthere was highly optimistic this summer there would be a rise in the influx of visitors the second half of this year.
As much as 6.7 percent of Egypt’s GDP is the result of travel and tourism.
The AP reported that Egyptian tourism revenues decreased 30 percent to $9 billion last year, as people stayed away during the revolution that was part of the Arab Spring movements.
The World Tourism Organization released a report this month, stating that international tourist arrivals went up in all regions of the world between January and June. Egypt rebounded 23 percent during that time period.
"We always say that Egypt gets sick but never dies. Recovery is always an option,” Egyptian tour guide Essam Zeid told the AP. But the fallout from the violence over the movie, which Muslims say is insulting to their religion and to the Prophet Muhammad, may prove him wrong.
Tharwat Agami, who heads the chamber of tourist agencies in Luxor, told the UK's Daily Mail that there have been about a quarter of tourist cancellations throughout October.
Egyptian tour guides also told the Mail that there is some worry there may be a drop off in tourist bookings next year. Still, Egypt's Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou told the Travel Trade Gazette, an industry publication, that he was sure visitor numbers would rise to around 15 million in 2013 from a projected total of 12 million this year.
That 15 million figure would mean one tourist per five Egyptians. In comparison, France, the world's top destination by number of visitors, saw 79 million arrivals in 2011, according to the United Nations; that's about 15 million more tourists than there are people in France.