Clueless in Egypt

Late last week, the interim Egyptian government announced they would scrap the current visa on arrival system that applies to tourists from most western countries and require all visitors to obtain visas in advance of travel. They said they would operate a similar, computer-based system to that used by the US and Australia. No mention was made of what would happen to visitors to the tourist enclaves of Sharm el Sheikh and other resorts on the Red Sea who do not currently need a visa providing they do not leave the tourist area. Nor was there any indication of a likely date – though some seemed to think they intended it to start almost immediately.

Egypt desperately needs to get its tourist numbers back up. Tour operators, airlines and tourists themselves hate uncertainty and extra bureaucracy. This dim-witted announcement was a serious kick in the crotch to the industry and those who have tried to support it.

It takes a long time to set up a totally new visa system. If it is to be similar to the US arrangement, it will require substantial investment and testing before it can go live. If they want to issue visas in the old fashioned way, through foreign consulates, it will require a massive increase in staffing. Either way, unless they want to reduce tourist numbers to a trickle, it would require at least a year of hard work to get everything in place.

Now, the Egyptian Consulate in London has meekly announced that there are “no plans” to change the current system. Presumably the politicians have been told just how impractical and damaging such a change would be.

One hopes that whatever new government is elected in the autumn they will put the growth of tourism as a priority – not its destruction.

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