Whether it was mechanical failure or (as now seems more likely) terrorism, the downing of EgyptAir flight MS804 this weekend provided yet another reason for tourists to give the Nile a skip. The Financial Times reports:
The country’s once-thriving tourism sector has been hit by a combination of political unrest and terrorism since the 2011 revolution, decimating an industry crucial for job creation and the provision of foreign currency in a country that is heavily reliant on imports.
Tourist arrivals collapsed in the wake of the Metrojet disaster, when Russia, a major source of tourists, halted all flights to and from Egyptian airports until it was satisfied that improvements to security measures had been implemented.
So far, the Russians have not returned, nor have British travel companies, which were the next largest group to offer package holidays in the Sinai town of Sharm el-Sheikh, the country’s most popular beach resort.
Tourist arrivals in March, the latest month for which official figures are available, dropped 47.2 per cent compared with the same month last year, with a total of 440,700 visitors, the fifth consecutive month that tourism declined.[..]
Jason Tuvey, economist with Capital Economics, the London-based consultancy, said tourism arrivals were already at “a decade’s low” before the crash, which he described as potentially “a knockout blow” to the industry.
Threats to Egypt’s tourism industry are, as we’ve written before, a threat to the Egyptian state itself: the trade accounts for about 11% of all Egyptian employment. It has been suffering ever since the Arab Spring, with the last airplane bombing marking a significant further point of deterioration. In 2015, tourism accounted for $7.4B (down from $11.6B in 09-10). What will it be next year
When you pile on Egypt’s recent (and related) currency and macroeconomic problems to its woes with this major industry, you have a recipe for serious economic trouble in the Arab world’s most populous nation. It’s time to start seriously worrying about Egypt again.