Egypt has suffered a significant decrease in tourism since 2010, due to two political events and an impression of insecurity, by banning all flights to Egypt the UK government has further emphasised this risk.
In 2010 tourism contributed £26bn to the country’s economy and employed 3.7 million people. By 2013, it had decreased to £20bn and 2.7 million people, a massive drop of about three per cent of GDP and four per cent of employment.
After a further drop caused by the military coup in 2013 the tourism industry was, however, slowly recovering with expected rises of around four to five per cent per year predicted for the foreseeable future.
However, the rebellion in the Sinai, the relatively frequent attacks on tourists and now this major incident will set recovery back and I would expect us to return to the level of 2013 or even lower.
The government had already placed South Sinai as an at risk area, discouraging all non-essential travel, but that was relatively unknown and had limited effect on the main tourist travel to Egypt. Although this is only aimed at Sharm el-Sheik in the Sinai Peninsula, the UK and European population are unlikely to differentiate and the major Red Sea and archaeological tourist destinations and as a result visits to these areas are likely to decrease.
The rebels are playing on this fear and any further attacks would be very serious indeed for Egypt. It is, to some extent, lucky this happened before the low season of November to February, but we are likely to see a sharp drop of possibly 300,000 visitors in February 2016, like February 2014.
There is little Egypt can do about the continuing fear inducing media reports on the situation as such. Making the armed forces more visible with more patrols on the streets might backfire; this simply reminds people of the threat and could increase the sense of vulnerability.
What Egypt should not do is stop positive reporting and presentation of Egypt to the world population, although it should admit that trouble exists, say it is limited and localised and that most of the country is safe for tourists.
The impact on Egypt could wipe away all GDP growth in 2016, possibly creating further political turmoil.
We are a very long way away from the 14 million – and growing – tourist arrivals of 2010. Egypt will be lucky if it reaches 10 million tourists in 2016.
Jacques De Cock is a faculty member at London School of Marketing.