Come back to Egypt, pleads travel boss

CEO Steve Reynolds with his two children on holiday in Egypt

The head of one of Australia’s largest travel companies has pleaded with Aussie travellers to return to Egypt, saying it is no more risky than the UK. Cox & Kings CEO Steve Reynolds has just returned from a two-week holiday through Egypt with his children India, 8, and Charlotte, 10,  and said there was nothing to fear more than one year on from the Egyptian uprising.

“Egypt is open for business and no one should feel unsafe travelling there,” Steve says. “As somebody who travels regularly and extensively, I think there are no greater risks travelling to Egypt than there are travelling to the UK. People don’t give a second thought about visiting London even though it recently experienced some fairly significant civil unrest.”

Steve travelled through Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Sharm el-Sheikh with his partner and children. He also met with local tourism operators and Egyptian Tourist Authority chairman Amr El Ezabi.

“Tourism operators indicated that the lack of confidence from tourists is hurting them financially but they all agreed what happened was a healthy chapter in their history and an opportunity for their country to move forward,” Steve says. “The Egyptian Tourism Authority is prepared to work with organisations such as Cox & Kings and sister brand Tempo Holidays to promote awareness of the fact that all the sites are open and that it’s safe for travel.

“… there is a real sense of optimism about the future now and unfortunately a lot less tourists.”

Steve said he was never worried about his family’s safety despite the Australian federal government’s warnings to “reconsider your need for travel” to Egypt overall and to “exercise a high degree of caution” for the Red Sea resorts, Luxor and Aswan.

“While the government always has to take the most cautionary approach, my honest view is there’s no way I’d take my children to somewhere that was unsafe,” he said.

Figures released last week showed Egypt tourism plunged by 30 per cent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year. Steve said Cox & Kings and Tempo Holidays had experienced an 80 per cent drop in visitor numbers over the past 12 months.

Cox & Kings is the world’s longest established travel company tracing its origins back to London in 1758. It opened offices in Australia in 2008.

FAST FACTS:

* The BBC reports about 300 people are still being detained after deadly clashes between protesters and security forces in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. Violence outside the defence ministry on Friday May 4 left one soldier dead and hundreds injured.

* Travel & Leisure magazine reported in November last year that Egypt was the making of Thomas Cook, the fourth-largest travel business in the world by sales. Thomas Cook organised the first package holiday from the UK to the Pyramids in 1869.  But following the revolution in Egypt,  the company had to secure a £200m rescue loan from banks and a relaxation of loan covenants.

* More than 12.8 million tourists visited Egypt in 2008, providing $US11 billion income for the country, and employing 12 per cent of the workforce.

* The Egyptian business website www.albawaba.com says Egypt welcomed 753,000 visitors who stayed a total of 8.3 million nights in February this year, according to the central agency for public mobilisation and statistics. The figure compares with 211,000 visitors who stayed 4.5 million nights in February last year, at the height of the unrest.

What’s your opinion? We’d love your comments.

Comments

  1. Leonidas says

    Define the UK risks, please, Steve. Last time looked there wasn’t hundreds injured..The riots of last year were not like the continuing violence in central Cairo. Avoid Cairo and it’s probably as you say

    • Steve Reynolds says

      Ultimately travel is a matter of personal choice; my comments are simply intended to add some perspective. I have been to both Cairo and London in the last 18 months and experienced both during demonstrations; I am not comparing the casualty list but my perceived level of danger. In Cairo the demonstrations are confined to certain areas and do not affect any Tourist hotspots, which are all heavily guarded. When I was in London the demonstration was indiscriminate and the Cox & Kings office in Millbank was blockaded and inaccessible for 6 days due to rioting students, with many staff and visitors to the area of Westminster put at risk of serious injury as a mob of students destroyed infrastructure, cars and buildings with no regard for anyone else in their path. My comments are based on firsthand experience and my own perceived level of security and risk, and are designed only to dispel the untrue perception that Egypt is unsafe and in a state of anarchy.

      • says

        Hi Steve, thanks for your candid comments. I wonder if travellers put the whole of the ME in the “too hard” basket, at the moment, and fail to investigate further. I wasn’t aware that the tourist spots were heavily guarded, but did know the demonstrations are confined to central Cairo. I am heartened by Peter’s comment that tourist numbers are slowly on the way up again, but obviously there is a really long way to go. Best wishes, Heather.

  2. Peter says

    I note The Daily Star has reported this week that: A revival in tourism helped halt the erosion of Egypt’s foreign currency reserves, which increased in April for the first time since last year’s popular uprising, a central bank official said. The increase isn’t driven by a rise in external financing and instead reflects stronger tourism, “rationalized spending and the phasing out of capital flight,” sub-governor Nidal Assar said in an emailed response to questions Monday.

    “This is good news and hopefully will persist in the coming months.”

    The increase halts a slide that has wiped out about 60 percent of the country’s reserves since the start of 2011. It may give the country respite as it seeks a $3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

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