In Egypt, History Unfolds: ‘The Crowds Are Breathing Their New Freedom’

By Travel Market Report

Acknowledging that “the tourism industry was trapped” by the demonstrations and unrest in Egypt, El Sayed Khalifa, consul-director of the Egyptian Tourist Authority in New York, today told Travel Market Report that the resignation of President Mubarak “is a very important step towards ending this crisis.”

“Everybody yesterday was thinking of a very bloody Friday today, but I’m very happy this step was taken at the right time and that the crowds on the street now are breathing their new freedom,” he said.

“Because we share now the same values, freedom and democracy, I’m sure Americans will be more willing to go and visit the country in bigger numbers and I’m sure that Liberation Square now could be an additional attraction to visitors to see the place where Egyptians were able to make history.”
 
Tour operators involved in the market also weighed in on today’s historic developments in Egypt.

“We are very pleased with the announcement and hope that the tourism industry will be able to rebound quickly,” said Arthur A. Kienle, vice president sales and business development with Key Tours International Inc. “We celebrate the formation of a new democratic government and wish the people of Egypt peace and prosperity.  We can only hope that tourism to this amazing country will once again be safely returned to normal and continue to grow.”

Tom Armstrong, Tauck’s director of communications, said the company is hopeful that Mubarak’s resignation will lead to a more democratic society in Egypt, a relatively quick return to stability there, and a speedy recovery for the country’s tourism sector.

“We don’t think that Egypt’s standing as a top tourism destination has suffered any long-term damage during the protests, for several reasons,” Armstrong told Travel Market Report.

“The disturbances were anti-government, and not directed against foreigners or tourists. Thankfully, and although there were some chaotic scenes, the tourists who were in Egypt when the protests started were able to leave the country without any major incidents. And underlying it all is the fact that Egypt is a truly unique destination – people who have dreamed of going there can’t really look elsewhere for a similar experience.”

“It’s certainly the change the multitudes wanted, but as far as tourism is concerned it’s too early to see,” said Ronen Paldi, president of Ya’lla Tours USA. “I can tell you that our office in Cairo is back working normally. Many passengers who had booked for February and March have already rebooked their trips for a later date in 2011 and I’m cautiously optimistic.”

“We’re all hoping the situation will stabilize completely and travel will be restored,” said Lisa Simon, president of the National Tour Association, in a prepared statement. “Our member tour operators have remained incredibly attentive to developments in Egypt, evaluating daily – hourly, even – what it means for travel there.”

In the same statement, NTA member Barbara Osman, owner of 4 Seasons Tours and Travel in Wilmington, Del., said, “I think tourism will begin again in early May, and maybe sooner.” Osman, whose husband is Egyptian, said the elements that make Egypt a popular destination for travelers will remain long after the protests are over.

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Director of Sales for the Candlewood Suites located in Secaucus, NJ.
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