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Crisis in Egypt and Tunisia

Egyptian unrest affects European travel sector

Feb 12, 2011

Political unrest in Egypt has battered the country’s crucial tourism industry and affected the European travel sector as well. But the crisis is proving a boon to countries such as Spain and Turkey.

Anti-government protests in Egypt have dealt a body blow to the country's tourism industry, which makes up about 11 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

More than one million tourists were in the country when the protests started in late January, and most left earlier than planned as unrest spread across the country.

Now, the continuing turmoil in Egypt is beginning to have a knock-on effect beyond its borders. Europe's largest tour operator Tui Travel said last week that the crisis in Egypt and Tunisia would cost it around 35 million euros.

Taking a toll on revenue

Thomas Cook, Europe's second-largest tour company, said it was reckoning with losses of 26.3 million euros. Air France-KLM, which along with other airlines has reduced flights to Egypt, said in a statement that the tense situation in Tunisia, Egypt and Ivory Coast was “gradually taking a toll on revenue.”

Egypt and Tunisia are among the most popular travel destinations for European tourists. Both nations have emerged in recent years as cheaper alternatives to the Canaries for those seeking a winter break by the beach. Last year, 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt, and tourism generated $11 billion in revenue, according to the Egyptian Tourist Authority in New York.

The continuing crisis in North Africa and its impact on the travel industry are also expected to be on the agenda of the international tourism fair, ITB, in Berlin in March.

But the tourism slump in North Africa has given countries such as Spain and Turkey a lot to cheer about.

Several European tour operators have given their customers the option to either cancel their trips to Egypt or chose a different destination without incurring penalties.

Canary Islands expect tourism boost

Anja Braun, spokeswoman for Tui Germany, said the company had been diverting German tourists to Spain as well as destinations in Turkey. The company rebooked some 40,000 flight tickets from Egypt to the Canary Islands and a further 10,000 tickets to Antalya in Turkey.

“The Canary Islands is a very popular destination for German tourists,” Braun told Deutsche Welle. “ But we've actually seen a jump in bookings across all segments, including more expensive destinations in the Caribbean or the United Arab Emirates,” she added.

Officials in Spain have also confirmed that the Canary Islands could see a boost in tourist numbers this winter.

"Tourism operators have said that up to 300,000 extra tourists may come in the coming months for the winter season in the Canaries, which ends in late April, although it is a situation that is changing almost daily," the deputy tourism minister of the Canaries regional government, Ricardo Armas, said in a press conference this week.

He added that the extra tourists would boost the occupancy rate at hotels in the Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean off northwest Africa, to between 80 and 85 percent.

Last-minute beach switches

Spain is the world's fourth-most visited country, according to the UN World Tourism Organization.

Majorca, traditionally the most lucrative destination for German tour operators, is also expecting a flood of German tourists this summer – not just because of the crisis in Egypt but also because of Germany's booming economy, according to the Association of Balearic Travel Companies.

Travel experts in Germany say a move away from low-cost travel destinations like Egypt to more expensive places like Spain are unlikely to deter travelers.

Martin Lohmann, a tourism researcher at the Kiel-based vacation and travel research group, said that German sunseekers would have no problem with last-minute beach switches due to the crisis in Egypt.

“The destinations can easily be swapped,” Lohmann told Deutsche Welle. “For most German tourists, it really doesn't matter whether they lie on the beach at the Red Sea in Egypt or at the Canary Islands.”

Egyptian unrest affects European travel sector
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