More than 50% of Americans booked for visits during November and December of 2023 canceled their plans. One of the most profitable seasons for the country suddenly slammed to a stop after the violent incursion into Israel by Hamas soldiers on October 7th and the subsequent military response by Israeli forces.
An estimated 10 million global tourists visited Egypt during the first eight months of 2023, but Great Wonders of Egypt, a destination management organization, reports that has all but ceased.
Cruise lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean also reported significant cancellations during this period. However, their concerns centered around Israel as a port of call, not the neighboring country of Egypt. Still, the news of an ongoing and potentially escalating conflict in the Middle East has had a noticeable chilling effect on Egyptian travel plans.
Could Egyptian Travel Numbers Improve in 2024?
Although Egypt plays no direct role in the current Israel-Hamas conflict, any instability in the Middle East region often hurts neighboring countries financially. The area surrounding Ukraine faced a similar drop in tourism after Russia invaded the country in February of 2022. Cancellations continued to surge until the summer of 2022, when the conflict's lines and borders stabilized, and the war's expansion became much less likely.
Egypt in 2024 will be in a comparable situation as the political crisis between Israel and the Hamas stronghold of Gaza shifts its focus. Cruise lines and international hotels could see a rise in bookings during the winter and spring as tourists regain confidence in the country's security measures. Some international tourists may still decide to delay an Egyptian excursion until at least 2025.
While potential visitors to Egypt may have concerns about personal safety or an escalation of hostilities in a nearby region, the host country must also contend with the economic fallout of a cancellation wave. Egypt's credit rating was recently lowered by Fitch, reporting “severe negative risks to tourism” as a result of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Despite the Conflict, Egypt's Coastline Still Revealing Ancient Treasures and Secrets
“Around the same time the conflict between Israel and Hamas started, underwater archeologists reported some of the most exciting finds in decades. The ancient Egyptian port city of Thonis-Heracleion, in the Bay of Aboukir, was destroyed by a “cataclysmic event” in the Second Century B.C. but once served as the main seaport until the establishment of Alexandria in 331 B.C. Archeologists have already discovered a Greek sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite and an Egyptian temple dedicated to the god Amun.
Grecian-style weapons discovered in the waters surrounding the site indicate the presence of Greek mercenaries employed to secure the passageway to the Canopic branch of the Nile. Other significant artifacts are still being excavated and cataloged, but the project has already yielded cultural and scientific benefits.
“Precious objects belonging to the temple treasury have been unearthed, such as silver ritual instruments, gold jewelry, and fragile alabaster containers for perfumes or unguents. They bear witness to the wealth of this sanctuary and the piety of the former inhabitants of the port city,” a spokesperson for the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) reports.
Is It Safe To Visit Egypt Right Now?
Whenever political instability or military conflict affects one country or region, concerns about the safety and security of neighboring countries understandably arise. Revenue from tourism and travel is commonly impacted by uncertainty but often recovers after a few months when the situation becomes more stable or at least definable regarding threat level.
Egyptian tourism organizations are already taking vital steps towards recovery, including reassurance to international cruise lines and travel agencies. Interest in Egypt's core attractions and destinations, such as the Pyramids or Valley of the Kings, shows no signs of diminishing, even during the current Israel-Hamas conflict on the other side of the Egyptian border.
How Can Egypt Weather the Cancellation Storm?
The economic fallout from the Israel-Hamas conflict is not limited to Egypt but also neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel. A critical factor in Egypt's favor is a continuing investment in tourism infrastructure, most notably hotel accommodations.
International travel agencies look favorably at countries like Egypt that have taken proactive steps to make visitors feel secure and welcome during their stays. Positive word-of-mouth from current travelers should also help the country recover from a short-term loss of tourism dollars.
Another factor in Egypt's favor is the eternal appeal of its antiquities and ancient sites. For example, The Pyramids at Giza have a cache that often transcends current political conditions in the region. Even when Egypt was experiencing its own internal political instabilities, the international tourist market still managed to prosper. Egypt's position as one of the world's most ancient and historical regions should help it survive and thrive as 2024 progresses.