| Egypt's tourism officials insist popular sites are safe | Egypt's tourism officials insist popular sites are safe

Dubai – Egypt’s tourism levels are still around a third of what they once were and, despite security concerns, Egypt’s tourism minister insists the country’s popular Red Sea resorts and Ancient Egyptian sites are a safe choice for travellers.

“We are saying that the tourism sector is safe; the airports are secure and the hotels are secure,” Mohamed Yehia Rashed said, adding that there have not been security breaches at tourist sites.

He said Germany represents the largest visitor market, particularly to Red Sea diving spots around Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh, followed by travellers from Saudi Arabia.

While he declined to give tourism figures for the first quarter of 2017, the ministry says that tourism from Arab countries represented around 36% of total traffic to Egypt last year. More than half-a-million tourists from Saudi Arabia visited Egypt in 2016, followed by Jordan with 180 000 visitors.

Employs millions

Before Egypt’s 2011 uprising, Italy, the UK and Russia were Egypt’s top markets, in addition to Germany. The uprising, however, decimated Egypt’s multibillion dollar tourism industry, which is a vital pillar of the country’s economy and employs millions of people.

The year before the upheaval, nearly 15 million tourists visited Egypt. Last year, the figure was 5.3 million tourists, according to the chairperson of Egypt’s Tourism Authority Hicham al-Demairi.

Russia, however, continues to ban all flights to Egypt and Egypt’s national carrier is still barred from flying to Russia following the downing of a Russian passenger jetliner in the Sinai Peninsula in 2015 that killed all 224 aboard. A Sinai-based Islamic Stage group affiliate claimed it was behind the incident and Russia says an explosive device was the cause, but the investigation has not yet formally concluded.