Cairo: A deadly attack on a tourist bus near the Egyptian capital on Friday is unlikely to derail or slow down the revival of the country’s vital tourism industry, experts have said.
A roadside bomb hit the bus that was carrying 14 Vietnamese tourists in Giza, home to the world-famed Pyramids. Three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian guide were killed in the attack for which no one has yet claimed responsibility. Twelve others, including the bus driver, were injured.
“The authorities have reacted swiftly to the incident and provided the media with all details, thereby leaving no room for rumour-mongers to exaggerate it or give a bad picture of the security situation in the country,” said Hassan Al Sharif, a tourism expert.
Shortly after the attack, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbuli went to the hospital in the Pyramids area where the injured were treated and announced the casualties.
“Authorities released several updates and explained the circumstances surrounding the incident. This quick, professional response has put things in their right context and boosted the international positive image of Egypt as a stable country,” Al Sharif told Gulf News.
“The motive of this terrorist incident is clear: hampering tourism from recovery and scare off tourists especially at the Christmas and the New Year, which is a peak season for the industry,” he added. “But I think the effect will be minimal, if any. There are no reports about any cancellation of flights or reservations. Safety is still a main feature of Egypt.”
The attack was the first to target foreign tourists in Egypt in more than a year. In July last year, three women tourists were killed in a knife assault in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada.
Once a major foreign currency earner for Egypt, the tourism industry bore the brunt of the upheavals that followed the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. A record 15 million people visited Egypt in 2010, the year before the anti-Mubarak uprising.
In October, 2015, Egyptian tourism suffered a harsh blow when a Russian passenger plane crashed in Sinai shortly after its departure from the popular resort of Sharm Al Shaikh.
All 224 people on board were killed. Russia said the jet had been brought down by a terrorist bomb and halted all flights to Egypt. The terrorist Daesh group claimed responsibility for the alleged bombing. But tourism has recently shown signs of recovery, as stability has largely been re-established in the country.
Friday’s attack has prompted authorities to tighten security ahead of the New Year celebrations and the Coptic Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7.
Egypt’s Christian minority community and their churches have been frequent targets of militant attacks since 2013 when the army deposed Islamist president Mohammad Mursi following enormous street protests against his divisive rule.
In recent months, security authorities have stepped up pre-emptive swoops on suspected terrorists in different parts of the countries, gunning down dozens in gunbattles. In February, this year, Egypt started a massive security operation that government officials say has since been successful.
On Saturday, the Interior Ministry said that 40 terrorists were killed in security clampdown in Giza and North Sinai — a hotbed of violent militants. The slain terrorists had planned attacks during the New Year festivities, the ministry said.
“Such preventive strikes cripple the terrorist groups and spoil their sinister plots,” said Salah Al Hadi, a political expert.
“Egypt has covered a long way in fighting and defeating terrorism. However, terrorist groups and their financiers will not surrender easily. The war against terrorism is long. Terrorism is a global threat. As the prime minister rightly pointed out [on Friday], no country, even the advanced countries, is immune to terrorist strikes,” Al Hadi told this paper.
Since taking office in 2014, President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, an ex-army chief, has made re-establishing security and revitalising economy among his top priorities.
As a result, Russia earlier this year restarted its flights to Cairo. Egyptians are pushing for the resumption of Russian flights to the country’s popular holiday destinations of Sharm Al Shaikh and Hurghada.
Egypt is also building a mega-museum near the Pyramids, where it plans to showcase some of its most splendid ancient artefacts, including those of the boy king Tutankhamoun, to lure more foreign visitors.
The efforts have paid off.
Last year, some 8.6 million foreign tourists visited Egypt, an increase of more than 55 per cent against 2016, according to official figures. Tourist arrivals have increased by around 40 per cent this year, according to official estimates.