For the first time since 2011, Egypt’s Luxor was packed with tourists, with more than 2,000 foreign tourists visiting the ancient city last Friday.
It’s the latest telltale sign that tourists are finally returning to Egypt, and it’s perhaps a silver lining amid the country’s economic crisis. It also comes less than two weeks after Egypt floated its pound, nearly halving its value against the U.S. dollar.
In other words, holidays in Egypt are about to get seriously cheap. But that’s not all that is bringing the tourists back.
“According to our ticket sales, the amount of foreigners who visited the popular tourist attractions reached over 2,000 people,” said Director General of Luxor Antiquities Mostafa Waziry, as reported by Scoop Empire.
The news comes after direct flights from London to Luxor resumed in October. Earlier this month, a group of more than 30 travel firms also called on the British government to lift its ban on direct flights from the United Kingdom to Egypt’s resort town of Sharm El Sheikh.
Russia, the United Kingdom and other European countries banned airlines from flying to certain cities in Egypt last year, following a series of high-profile airplane crashes that may have been terrorist-related.
Political unrest and other terrorist attacks cast a shadow over the countries tourism industry as well.
Flights from Turkey, Germany and Belgium have all resumed. Fly Egypt, a budget airline launched in 2015, also announced this week that it will be adding flights from the United Arab Emirates to Alexandria due to increasing demand.
For its part, the Egyptian government is confident that appropriate security measures have been taken to ensure the safety of tourists. It also believes these measures are acceptable according to international standards.
“We have been led to understand that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department of Transport [of the UK] are all now happy with the measures put in place following stringent security reviews,” Rasha Azaizi, director of the Egyptian State Tourist Office in London told the BBC.
Egypt’s tourism sector, which has long played a central role in the country’s economy, has struggled significantly since 2011 when a popular uprising overthrew President Hosni Mubarak. Following elections and a brief stint in office, Mohamed Morsi, the next president, was removed from office through a military coup in 2013.
Now, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former army general, has faced difficulties addressing the issues plaguing the countries struggling economy. Recently, Sisi’s government secured a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. But to secure the loan, the government was forced to increase interest rates, cut petrol subsidies and float Egypt’s already devalued pound.
Ordinary Egyptians have been left to bear much of the country’s economic burden, but the return of foreign tourists could signal positive things to come.