The head of one of Australia’s largest travel companies has pleaded with Aussie travellers to return to Egypt, saying it is no more risky than the UK. Cox & Kings CEO Steve Reynolds has just returned from a two-week holiday through Egypt with his children India, 8, and Charlotte, 10, and said there was nothing to fear more than one year on from the Egyptian uprising.
“Egypt is open for business and no one should feel unsafe travelling there,” Steve says. “As somebody who travels regularly and extensively, I think there are no greater risks travelling to Egypt than there are travelling to the UK. People don’t give a second thought about visiting London even though it recently experienced some fairly significant civil unrest.”
Steve travelled through Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Sharm el-Sheikh with his partner and children. He also met with local tourism operators and Egyptian Tourist Authority chairman Amr El Ezabi.
“Tourism operators indicated that the lack of confidence from tourists is hurting them financially but they all agreed what happened was a healthy chapter in their history and an opportunity for their country to move forward,” Steve says. “The Egyptian Tourism Authority is prepared to work with organisations such as Cox & Kings and sister brand Tempo Holidays to promote awareness of the fact that all the sites are open and that it’s safe for travel.
“… there is a real sense of optimism about the future now and unfortunately a lot less tourists.”
Steve said he was never worried about his family’s safety despite the Australian federal government’s warnings to “reconsider your need for travel” to Egypt overall and to “exercise a high degree of caution” for the Red Sea resorts, Luxor and Aswan.
“While the government always has to take the most cautionary approach, my honest view is there’s no way I’d take my children to somewhere that was unsafe,” he said.
Figures released last week showed Egypt tourism plunged by 30 per cent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year. Steve said Cox & Kings and Tempo Holidays had experienced an 80 per cent drop in visitor numbers over the past 12 months.
Cox & Kings is the world’s longest established travel company tracing its origins back to London in 1758. It opened offices in Australia in 2008.
* The BBC reports about 300 people are still being detained after deadly clashes between protesters and security forces in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. Violence outside the defence ministry on Friday May 4 left one soldier dead and hundreds injured.
* Travel & Leisure magazine reported in November last year that Egypt was the making of Thomas Cook, the fourth-largest travel business in the world by sales. Thomas Cook organised the first package holiday from the UK to the Pyramids in 1869. But following the revolution in Egypt, the company had to secure a £200m rescue loan from banks and a relaxation of loan covenants.
* More than 12.8 million tourists visited Egypt in 2008, providing $US11 billion income for the country, and employing 12 per cent of the workforce.
* The Egyptian business website www.albawaba.com says Egypt welcomed 753,000 visitors who stayed a total of 8.3 million nights in February this year, according to the central agency for public mobilisation and statistics. The figure compares with 211,000 visitors who stayed 4.5 million nights in February last year, at the height of the unrest.
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