In an effort to circumvent potential terrorist and other political undesirables, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced Monday that starting May 15, 2015 individuals looking to enter the country would no longer be able to obtain a visa upon arrival. Instead, solo travelers must first visit the Egyptian consulate in their country to apply for a visa prior to traveling, a process that takes up to ten days.
This couldn’t come at a worse time as tourism has yet to recover from the 2011 civil revolution. Many travel industry leaders in the country have voiced their opposition stating the trending downward spiral of tourism revenue, which has plummeted to 50% off of Egypt’s record 2010 intake. Since the civil uprising, many tourist cities have been abandoned with resort hotels reporting anywhere from a constant 20% hotel occupancy to outright 0% in what was a booming industry merely five years ago.
In order to apply for an Egyptian vacation from the United States, a visit to the consulate is in order which means a ten-day visit to New York City adding to the cost of an already pricy international trip. There are instructions found on the Egyptian embassy website on how to mail in visa applications, bypassing a visit to the Big Apple, but the process merely adds to the wait time.
It should be noted that these restrictions apply only to individual travelers and not group bookings. Egyptian’s minister of media, Rasha el-Azaizy, believes because the changes only apply to solo adventurers, the restrictions won’t decay the tourism industry more than it already is: “I don’t believe it will have a bad effect because most tourists come in groups.”
However, objectors like Hisham Zaazou, Egypt’s former tourism minister, are quick to point out el-Azaizy’s flawed mindset: “Pre-2011, 25% of tourists were individual tourists. After the revolution it went down, and now it is somewhere between 15 and 20%. So you’re speaking about 2 million people. It’s a big size.”
With recent instability in the region, including the terrorist bombing in nearby Tunisia, tourism isn’t likely to improve, restrictions or no. Protests and violence still persist within Egypt. Though the inner-country instability isn’t necessarily directed to tourists, The U.S. travel board warns that violence and disorder is unpredictable and sudden furthermore advising that extremists and terrorism are also very real threats to public safety. In other words there seems to be merit behind the visa restrictions the goal of which is suggested to give intelligence services more time to assess individuals who want to visit Egypt.
A similar measure was briefly put in place September of 2011 then quickly removed after heavy outcry from industry leaders suggesting that these new regulations might not be set in stone quite yet.