Egypt: cruises on Nile in crisis, tourists still fearful

Data on tourism down from 2011; now investments for recovery

04 May, 14:07

    (by Virginia Di Marco) (ANSAmed) - LUXOR, MAY 4 - A ghost fleet is moored along the Nile river, between Aswan and Luxor, in southern Egypt. Until a few years ago, this part of the river along some of the most beautiful archaeological parks and antiquities in the world was a very popular site visited by tourists as part of cruise itineraries. Groups of Russians, Germans, Britons and Italians left on boats that were all the same: a few dozen cabins, a piano bar for the evening and a swimming pool on the last floor against the African heat during the day.

    Some 300 of these ships crossed one another as they went back and forth and tourists visited villages and cities along the way, which flourished thanks to the work they got.

    All of this is in the past now: over the past four years, tourists have left Egypt. The political turbulence in the country has cooled the enthusiasm of Europeans and plunged a sector - tourism - which had the second most important impact on GDP after the Suez channel.

    First there was the popular revolution against Mubarak in 2011, then the Islamist government of Mohammed Morsi and, less than a year ago, the rise to power of the military led by General al Sisi, who is today Egypt's president. The military front opened in the Sinai against Islamic terrorists is also a factor along with the internal front against the Muslim Brothers, seriously weakened by Morsi's ouster yet strong enough to organize targeted attacks in several parts of the country.

    All this - amplified by international media - has scared tourists away. Out of the 300 boats still active there are today only about a dozen. They are moored, one next to the other, in the ports of the main cities. When getting into one, the contrast is immediately clear between the interior decoration - flashy but perfect in its kind, with mirrors and plastic flowers - and the desolation caused by inactivity. Wires hang from the ceiling, there is dust, an old matrass and cloths that belong to keepers hired to prevent the homeless or others from getting inside as the ghost fleet awaits for tourists to come back along with retailers in areas like Kom Ombo, Edfu and Esna.

    Hit by the economic crisis, they flock around the few tourists who still visit. Some run along the Nile when boats sail by, throwing their goods at them - cotton scarves, souvenirs - hoping that a few Egyptian liras or euros will be thrown back. The crisis of the local economy is also apparent at the market of Edfu were many stalls are closed and a lot of garbage lies around, without anyone picking it up. A mouse can be seen nosing the spices on display while the vendor doesn't notice. Part of the market's floor - a beautiful granite - has been stolen and there are holes here and there. But soon it will be restored, some residents assure. Here as elsewhere local governors have received precise orders from Cairo: al Sisi vies to re-launch Egypt as a destination for international tourists and to do so it is necessary to shake off the patina of misery of the past few years. The objective is to attract 20 million tourists by 2020: an ambitious objective given that visitors last year were 10 million overall. However, Egyptians appear to believe in it, in spite of everything. (ANSAmed).

    © Copyright ANSA - All rights reserved

    Business opportunities

    The information system of business
    opportunities abroad

    News from Mediterranean