Sunday, October 25, 2009

For Egypt operators, calls can be just questions ... or cancellations. (terrorist attacks slow tourism).

Holiday 2008 USA, LLC

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The US Dept of State issued a warning about travel in Egypt after terrorists killed 18 Greek tourists in Apr 1996. Tour operators reassure travelers by describing stronger security at Cairo hotels, on cruise ships and in airports. The number of Egyptian visitors from the US rose in 1995 to 3.1 million, a 34% increase over the previous year.

Full Text :COPYRIGHT 1996 Cahners Business Information
NEW YORK - In the wake of a terrorist attack that left 18 Greek tourists shot dead in Cairo last week, some Egypt operators are taking almost a business-as-usual approach, but others are reporting trip cancellations and postponements.

The massacre, which occurred outside the Europa Hotel, prompted a State Department announcement telling U.S. citizens traveling abroad to exercise "greater-than-usual caution."

A Maupintour spokeswoman said that there have been no cancellations on its Egypt program but that clients were calling to ask if tours are going to operate.

"Most travelers are savvy about destinations [such as Egypt], and they know we stay in touch with the State Department and our ground operator in Cairo," she said.

"The level [of fear] lowers when travelers are told that there is increased security at Cairo airport and at the topend hotels, where they are staying."

Sunny Land Tours, however, said it is experiencing quite a different reaction.

"We have plenty of cancellations," said Elie Sidawi, the president of the firm, who has been selling travel to Egypt since guns were pointed across the Suez Canal just under 30 years ago.

"There are ups and downs to this destination, which sits in the middle of a volatile area," Sidawi said, "and, right this minute, our sales policy is to leave the decision on whether to travel to Egypt and the Holy Land completely up to the traveler.

"It would make me very uneasy to say that everything is safe; therefore, clients have to make up their own minds.

"As a tour operator, I will not lure a client to make a commitment to go to Egypt, or try to change his or her mind that travel is risk-free, just for the sake of making a few dollars."

In the Middle East, Sidawi said, there is a basic difference in deciding to travel to Egypt or Israel: In Israel, terrorism is not directed at tourists, but in Egypt, tourists have become the declared target of militant groups seeking to overthrow the government.

Nigel Osborne, president of Insight International, said his firm is standing pat with its Middle East tour program, which offers trips to Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Syria.

"We are shocked and angered at the recent actions. However, we should not let these isolated incidents deter either the peace process or the growing tourism to the area."

Osborne said that Insight is taking extra precautions to help protect its clients and ensure their safety.

"In Egypt, our clients are all booked into five-star hotels with airport-style security measures, and our own resident manager is meeting with our travelers in Cairo, giving each group a security briefing," he said.

Although just three cancellations were reported by Insight, Osborne said he is waiving cancellation fees by allowing travelers to postpone trips or substitute any of the company's tours to Europe or the eastern Mediterranean within a year of the cancellation date.

Esplanade Tours president Jackie Keith said that her firm's operations in Egypt are running normally, although "we have increased security for our five-star Regency cruiser."

"We have had no cancellations on pre- and post-Egypt FITs to Jordan and Jerusalem," she said.

Keith said she tells clients who call with security inquiries, "If you don't feel comfortable, don't go, but if you do go, you are in our hands and will not be able to wander around unattended."

On the scene in Cairo, Ady Gelber, president of Isram Tours, said, "Egypt, a traditionally hospitable country, is shaken by the recent attack and has made a tremendous effort to add to existing security, with uniformed and nonuniformed personnel at hotels, on cruise ships, at tourist sites and at the airport."

Speaking from his room at the Nile Hilton, Gelber said that the hotel is full of American and Israeli tourists.

"Those I have spoken with feel comfortable with the security measures," he said, "and you have to be here to see that the restaurants and museums - although heavily guarded - are full of tourists."

Hotel security is a priority for Western chains in Egypt.

"Our primary concern, of course, is the security and comfort of our guests, and we have in place a full-service security force on duty 24 hours a day," a spokeswoman for Sonesta Hotels & Resorts said.

Sonesta, with cruise operations and properties extending from Cairo to the southern Sinai peninsula at Sharm al-Sheikh, "realizes that for the immediate future, our customers may take a wait-and-see approach to travel to Egypt."

Meanwhile, Yahya Abdelkader, assistant director of the Egyptian Tourist Authority, confirmed that security measures have been beefed up at airports, hotels and attractions.

The terrorist attack came on the heels of a hugely successful year for tourism to Egypt.

In 1995, the country posted a 34% increase in U.S. arrivals over 1994 and attracted 3.1 million foreign visitors.

Source Citation:Hunt, Carla. "For Egypt operators, calls can be just questions ... or cancellations." Travel Weekly 55.n33 (April 25, 1996): 1(2). InfoTrac Small Business eCollection. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 25 Oct. 2009

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