Tourism: Egypt: the slow agony of Luxor and the Nile Valley

Governor, alternatives like agriculture, industry necessary

22 January, 12:25

    (by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) - LUXOR, JANUARY 22 - With the tourism industry in deep crisis in Upper Egypt, it is hard not to encounter people including street vendors, boat, taxi or carriage drivers ferrying tourists along the Nile in Luxor or to visit archaeological sites not begging visitors to buy something.

    'Please, I am hungry, buy something, you decide the price', they say. Western tourists walking through Luxor are few although clashes and casualties registered between the two souls of Egypt - Morsi supporters and opponents - are relatively far from here.

    'Here in Luxor we have taken to the streets at two historic times: on January 25, 2011 and in July 2013', said Boutros, a Coptic trader. Luxor residents chose to demonstrate for the ouster of two presidents, Mubarak and Morsi, as well as others across the country. 'However we are not interested in politics.

    We only want to work', said Gamal from a nearby spice store smelling of cinnamon and cardamom with an old radio playing verses from the Koran.

    Almost everything is sold at half price or on sale at markets as well as big hotels. A number of luxury hotels even offer Spa services with 50% off. The Art Museum, a three-storey bazaar selling products made by local artisans and spices which used to be open from 9 am until 10 pm, is empty. So retailers have decided to open only once a week.

    'Only if a hotel or travel agent calls we open', said the manager. All products are half price or cost even less. The worst year, according to many, was 2012 under the government of the Muslim Brothers.

    And the new governor of Luxor, Tarek Saad El Din, who took over the post last August, has far from an easy job. Four governors have filled the post since 2011 and the problems are still there.

    About '70% of people here in Luxor work in tourism and my top objective is to attract again foreign and Egyptian visitors to this region', El Din told ANSAmed.

    As a consequence, he started meeting ambassadors of France, Italy, Great Britain, Russia, Japan and Egypt, asking them to come check the situation on the ground. In Luxor, recalled El Din, 'nothing has ever happened. No violence'.

    Numbers however show a harsh reality. 'In August, the rate of visitors was 1%. In the past few days it has risen to 28%'. A significant impulse, said the governor, was given by the visit of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

    In order to confront the emergency and literally feed the starved tour operators in Luxor, 'the government of Cairo has allocated 3 million liras for guides and 2.5 for carriage drivers (and their horses)and all those working with feluccas all year', said El Din.

    While waiting for the negative trend to stop, it is necessary to aim high. 'There are no factories here', said the governor. 'With the industry minister, we have decided to start two projects to develop food and beverage industries in the areas of Bogdadi and Esna. All this respecting the environment'.

    The governor's idea is to develop renewable energies, in particular solar energy.

    'So far we have installed panels on three different public buildings in the city', he said. Before becoming governor, El Din was executive director of the authority to develop Egyptian tourism. 'The agency has 1,74 million dollars in investments, 72% of which are in the hands of local entrepreneurs. We have confidence mostly in Egyptian investors'. (ANSAmed)
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