Improving security procedures has been a major component of the authorities’ ongoing efforts to recapture Egypt’s position as a top worldwide destination for tourists. Success in this regard is fundamental to the industry’s promotion of Egypt as a safe destination for leisure travel, especially following a series of high-profile incidents involving foreign visitors in 2015-16.
Airports In Focus
Following the Sharm El Sheikh terrorist attack, in December 2015 Hisham Zaazou, then-minister of tourism, announced an evaluation of the country’s airport security procedures. Speaking to local press, the minister said, “They want to make sure there is a checklist, a manual for every airport ... what they call screening, second screening.” In line with this, the Egyptian government has tapped a number of international teams to conduct reviews of airport security procedures, including UK security firm Control Risks, which confirmed submission of its findings in May 2016. Delegations from Russia and the US have also provided security recommendations.
Furthermore, in June of the same year another UK firm, Restrata, signed a landmark agreement to train the National Falcon Company, the outfit tasked with providing security services at the airports by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. According to the local press, the agreement is part of the ministry’s efforts to ensure security procedures and practices comply with international standards. Prior to this, in February 2016 Ahmed Saeed, chairman of Cairo Airport Company, told local press that 140 security cameras had been added to the capital’s international airport at a cost of LE28m (equivalent to $1.5m as of December 2016). Such efforts to tighten security appear to be paying off. According to Elhamy Elzayat, chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, security at Egypt’s airports has increased by 200%.
In addition to the push at airports, the hotel industry is also strengthening security. Hala El Khatib, secretary-general of the Egyptian Hotel Association, told OBG, “In the hotel sector we have stepped up all security measures.” Furthermore, in January 2016 Zaazou announced a $32m initiative to upgrade security in the popular tourist resorts of Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh, expanding the use of security cameras and scanning equipment, as well as deploying additional security personnel and guard dogs.
In conversation with OBG, Elzayat highlighted the dual nature of the issue of security for the tourism industry, which involves not only the efforts to strengthen procedures, but also to change the perception of safety in the country. Indeed, both Elzayat and El Khatib noted that while other tourist destinations, including Paris and Brussels, have witnessed terrorist attacks, Egypt has seen more longer-lasting effect from the public’s altered perception of its security situation.
In August 2015 international public relations firm J Walter Thompson was awarded a three-year, $68m contract by the Ministry of Tourism to reverse this perception. So far, the firm’s campaigns have included an initiative called Egypt Live, which broadcast 198 hours of footage filmed in different areas of the country to remind viewers of the beauty and diversity existing outside of the international media’s spotlight, which tends to focus on goings on in the capital.
Security is likely remain a prevailing topic in any future strategic discussions on the tourism sector. However, industry leaders are hopeful that enhanced security measures and effective marketing will enable the country to regain its footing as a global tourism destination in the long term. “Egypt has undertaken strong initiatives in terms of communications with the competent authorities and public opinion in source markets on safety and security issues, unlocking the support of airlines and tour operators, incentivising demand and engaging key players,” Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organisation, told local press during a visit in February 2016. “I trust these actions will herald results in restoring confidence and accelerating the recovery of tourism to Egypt.”
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