By Dahlia Ali
The Ministry of Tourism has ordered that male employees be restricted from all women’s spas across the country in hopes the move would protect tourists from sexual harassment and help the country undo a reputation it recently gained of rampant violence and insecurity.
Hotels and spas that defy the ministerial decree will be shut down, state-run Al-Ahram quoted Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou as saying. Further challenges of the rule would subject the facility to the revocation of its license and a cut in its rating, the state news agency reported.
The move is one of a number of other measures which the ministry will adopt to end sexual harassment targeting tourists, Zaazou said according to the newspaper. Revenue from the tourism sector has rebounded 20% to $10.1bn but is still about 20% less than revenues recorded in 2010.
A slumping tourism sector in post-revolutionary Egypt has largely contributed to the country’s eroding foreign reserves. Egypt’s international reserves reached $14.4bn in April according to the latest figures on the central bank’s website. This is about 60% lower than levels recorded before the beginning of the revolution. Tourists, who are a main source of foreign exchange flowing into the economy, have been repelled by the sporadic and political unrest from which the country is still struggling to recover.
Egypt was ranked last among 139 other countries in terms of safety and security on the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index issued this month by the World Economic Forum. The country’s overall rank dropped 10 places this year to 85 on the index, which cited the continuing political unrest. The report also deemed rules and regulations to be “less inclusive to the development of the sector”. Egypt was also ranked 138 in terms of the business costs of terrorism, and held the 129th place in the business costs of crime and violence.
According to the report, however, Egypt’s ranks still have the advantage of a rich cultural heritage, with the seven World Heritage cultural sites and the hosting of several international fairs and exhibitions. Price competitiveness continues to leverage the country’s rank as low fuel costs, hotel prices and transportation is an attraction.
Al-Ahram reported that about 2.86 million tourists arrived to Egypt during the first quarter of 2013, marking a 14.4% rise compared with the year-earlier period. However it is still less than 2010 levels, when Egypt recorded the arrival of about 14.7 million tourists generating a revenue of $12.5bn, according Al-Ahram.