With the decline in tourist flow to Egypt during the past four years, diving and water sports tourism was highly affected, according to Hesham Gabr, former Chairman of Chamber of Diving and Water sports (CDWS), who added that the losses of the diving and water sports amount to almost $2bn per year.
Gabr also mentioned that accident rates have risen significantly, which threatens Egypt’s international reputation, noting that it has become necessary for the Ministry of Tourism to intervene and address this problem.
Howdoyousee diving and water sports tourism after four very difficult years for Egyptian tourism?
Diving and water sports tourism is one of the products offered by Egypt as a tourist destination, and it was affected, like other products. There was a decline, with the increase in accident rates, which affects Egypt’s international reputation, as beach tourism in Egypt represent a 90% majority of the inflows. That is why inaction in maintaining the reputation of the Egyptian tourist destinations is disastrous, as lately many unauthorised diving centres have spread, which negatively affects the activity.
What is the sector’s annual loss?
Diving and water sports tourism represents 20% of tourism income to Egypt, which means that diving tourism’s annual loss is $2bn every year. That is an $8bn loss.
That is a very big number, for which political turbulences and unrest are primarily responsible.
Do you think the government is responsible for this loss?
It is time for the government to take responsibility for the loss of a very important tourist product to the Egyptian economy, which is in desperate need for it, as activity has declined 60% during the past four years.
What is the government doing to help you?
I request from all ministries to work on environmental protection, not only in the Red Sea, but in every part of Egypt, as the environment is an important tourist product for Egyptians.
The Ministry of Environment is not responsible alone for protecting marine life, and several other ministries, including the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Tourism, are responsible too.
Fishing licences cannot be allowed during mating season, because marine life in the Ras Mohammed area is threatened and we have to protect it. Coral reefs are also in danger, and this will all affect tourism.
Do you see any pressure on the government concerning this issue?
Yes, there was verbal pressure imposed by the Fishermen’s Union. We are not against fishing, but we just have to organise it. If the situation remains the same in the next 10 years, as I previously stated, there will be no coral reefs or fish in the Red Sea.
You mentioned that the rate of diving accidents has been increasing during the past four years. Who is responsible?
It is not important to announce who is responsible; in the meantime we have to work for the sake of protecting Egypt and its tourist reputation. As for the licence centres, the responsibility lies on the state.
How much is the increase in percentage of the accidents’ rate?
I do not know. This should be asked of the Ministry of Tourism. On the other hand, accidents have increased a lot in the past period, and, in order to avoid this, there should be strict punishments against these illegal centres.
Tourist income for Egypt over the last four years has remained under $10bn. How do you see revenues?
The Ministry of Tourism has to develop touristic products and seek future success through increasing flights to and from the different destinations.
EgyptAir has to be separated from the Ministry of Aviation, because it is not reasonable that a company with 30,000 employees loses EGP 10bn.
Under whose authority will the company be?
It will go to the Ministry of Investments, and its administration will target revenues.
The Minister of Tourism announced that reservations for the winter achieved 20% growth. What is your comment on that?
I want to highlight an important fact here; on what basis was this number announced?
The period in which the comparison was made had very low booking rates, which raises winter bookings for next year.
Despite this, I see that next winter will be better than the past four seasons, keeping in mind that we did not receive any indicators for 2010 yet.