Luxor - After five years of political turmoil, Egyptians hope for a strong recovery of the tourism sector, especially after Upper Egypt's city of Luxor was chosen by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) as the 2016 World Tourism Capital.
In late October, Luxor hosted the two-day 104th meeting of UNWTO Executive Council attended by some 170 representatives from 50 countries, including 11 tourism officials.
“Tourism in Egypt gets ill but never dies,” UNWTO chief Taleb Rifai told the meeting. “The high level of attendance at this meeting is a confirmation of the confidence of the international tourism community in Egypt.”
Despite tourism decline and security issues resulting from the past few years of political turmoil, Luxor, a city steeped in history, still looks as bright as ever with its ancient Egyptian antiquities and monuments, such as the famous Karnak Temple constructed by the pharaohs some 3 500 years ago.
Ahmed Taha al-Rashidi, a 35-year-old tour guide in Luxor, expressed optimism about tourism recovery in the ancient city. “We started to feel rebirth of the value of our historical monuments and their historical and cultural significance to the world,” the man told Xinhua at the yard of Karnak Temple.
Bashir Sobhi al-Naggar, owner of a two-wheeled horse-drawn carriage, said that tourism deterioration following the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak “greatly affected all the people in Luxor who rely on tourism as their main and sometimes only source of income.”
“We have rising hopes that tourism will return soon as we now see a reasonable number of tourists in Luxor in the beginning of the winter season compared to previous years,” the 54-year-old man told Xinhua outside the railway station of the city.
Tourism in Egypt further worsened after a Russian plane crash in Sinai that killed over 200, mostly Russians, in October 2015, an Italian student's mysterious death in Cairo in early February and a tragic crash of an EgyptAir flight in May that killed all 66 people on board, including 15 French nationals.
“We should think outside of the box and try to find alternative tourism markets other than the European one that is affected by non-objective political factors,” said Ramadan Haggag, head of Luxor Chamber of Tourism.
He said that Egypt has signed several agreements with China in 2016, with the goal of refreshing the Egyptian tourism with Chinese visitors. In Sonesta Hotel, more guests were seen in October, which may promise a better winter tourism season that starts in November every year.
“Luxor has already started to receive tourist groups from countries that formerly advised their citizens to avoid travelling to Egypt, such as Britain and Germany,” Hesham Radwan, Sonesta Hotel General Manager, told Xinhua.
Glatt Acher, a 60-year-old British tourist and a guest in the hotel, said that Luxor is one of the safest places and its people are among the friendliest and most hospitable in the world.
Another tourist, Van Deventer from Germany, said that he made his decision to visit Luxor and Aswan in Upper Egypt after he learned that Luxor was awarded the World Tourism Capital for 2016.
“Its choice by the UNWTO to host its big meeting also shows that it's completely safe and what we hear in Europe is completely different from what we have seen on the ground,” he said.
Mohamed Badr, the governor of Luxor, said that the success of the UNWTO conference in the city sends a clear message of assurance to the whole world about Egypt's safety and security. “We hope local and foreign media to convey the fact that Egypt is completely qualified to receive tourists from all over the globe,” the governor told Xinhua.