Abu Dhabi: Egypt is preparing to reopen all archaeological and tourist areas across the country following the Prime Minister’s decision to allow cultural tourism to return from September 1, after a closure of about five months from mid-March, as a precaution to stem the spread of the coronavirus, local media reported. However, the government has stipulated that arrivals to the country must present a negative PCR test result before entering Egyptian territory.
Dr. Ghada Shalaby, Deputy Minister of Tourism and Antiquities of Egypt, said the ministry will ensure that all controls are implemented in hotels and tourist facilities and all archaeological and tourist areas in the governorates will be reopened.
The Luxor governorate has announced it will start receiving tourists in the southern governorate early next month, in temples and archaeological museums, with the return of one-day tourism coming from Hurghada in the Red Sea Governorate.
The return of tourism to Egypt partially began last July, according to a decision allowing to receive tourists in the governorates of the Red Sea, South Sinai and Matrouh, as a first stage, and archaeological areas and museums were reopened in these governorates, with a limited number of archaeological sites and museums reopened in other governorates such as the pyramids, and the Baron Empain Palace in Cairo.
The cities of Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh have received more than 100,000 tourists from Belarus, Ukraine, Switzerland, Hungary and Serbia, since the resumption of inbound tourism to Egypt.
Workers in the tourism sector in Luxor do not rely much on tourists from Eastern European countries, according to Tharwat Agami, head of the Chamber of Tourism Establishments in Luxor.
He told Asharq Al Awsat that “these tourists usually like beach tourism, stay there, and are satisfied with one-day tourism to visit the antiquities in Luxor”.
He added the masses of cultural tourism are usually coming from Western Europe, and tourism companies in the province have received a large number of requests to start organising cultural tourism trips to the governorate.
Agami said, “all hotels and tourist facilities in Luxor are ready to receive tourists, after obtaining a health safety certificates more than a month ago, and they are constantly inspected to ensure their compliance with the health protocols to stem the spread of coronavirus.”
Egypt has put in place a set of controls and conditions to allow the reopening of tourist facilities and hotels, and has stipulated that they obtain a health safety certificate from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, related to operating rates, setting signs of social distancing, temperature checks, and hygiene and health conditions. Some 700 tourist restaurants and cafeterias have obtained a health safety certificate, out of a thousand tourist restaurants and cafeterias that have been inspected to ensure their compliance with safety procedures, and 644 hotels have obtained a health safety certificate in 21 governorates, since last May, according to official data released by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
Egypt allows restaurants and cafeterias to operate at 50 per cent capacity, according to the decision of the Crisis Committee of the Council of Ministers, starting from July 26, with a specific number of visitors to the archaeological sites.
Agami expects Luxor and Aswan to witness a significant turnout of tourists during the coming period, with the start of the tourist season in October.
Limit the spread
The decision to resume tourism comes in conjunction with tightening procedures and controls to limit the spread of the COVID-19, as the Egyptian government stipulated a negative PCR test conducted within 72 hours, for all Egyptians and foreigners who wish to enter the Egyptian lands.
The number of people infected with coronavirus in Egypt witnessed a decrease over the past two weeks, as Egypt recorded 111 new infections, on Thursday.
Tourism is one of the main sources of income in Egypt, and in 2010 more than 14 million tourists visited Egypt, an increase of more than 17 per cent over 2009, according to official statistics.
January 2011 revolution caused a decline in the number of tourists, which reached 5.25 million in 2016. Last year witnessed a revival and an increase in the number of tourists, which was about 10.8 million, according to a government report presented to the Parliament in the middle of last year.
Egypt was targeting to reach 12 million tourists this year, but the coronavirus has changed that.