Egypt's tourism industry faces disaster as Islamist terrorists step up attacks

Egypt's tourism industry is facing disaster as Islamist militants escalate terror attacks focused on popular tourist spots across the country, with two plots targeting ancient sites occurring within just a week of each other.

The assessment comes as a suicide bomber detonated an explosive at the site of the ancient Temple of Karnak in the city Luxor today while Egyptian security forces thwarted another attack in Giza, the site of the Egyptian pyramids.

The attack in Luxor saw three assailants, two armed with live ammunition and one with an explosive device, carry out an offensive on the site but were repelled by security forces, who killed two and injured one of the attackers, the Egyptian Interior Ministry confirmed in a statement released on its Facebook page. Four Egyptian nationals were wounded in the attack.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack as of yet but Islamist militants, angered by a crackdown by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's since the overthrow of previous president Mohamed Morsi, have continuously targeted Egyptian security forces and symbols of foreign interests.

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Last year, the Egyptian government revealed that tourism revenues had fallen by 95% since the Arab Spring revolution, from £250m (€343m) in 2010 to £10.5m (€14m) in 2014 but locals in popular sites such as Luxor predict an even-further decline in tourism.

Mena Melad, editor of the English-speaking Luxor Times, based in the city where the attack happened, says that the already-failing tourism industry in the city would again be damaged by the terror attack.

"It was already bad in Luxor since 2011, but in the past month or so, occupancy rates have not been more than 20%," he reveals, speaking from the site of the blast. "So, it was already a big hit since 2011. It can get worse."

"People don't like to hear the word bomb," he adds. "Once they hear that, they want to stay away from that place, especially if they have other choices."

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The local journalist adds that many workers in Luxor's previously successful tourism industry are now leaving their jobs to seek other work, leaving a skills shortage for hoteliers and other businesses that cater to foreign tourists.

There were 664 tourists and 55 Egyptian at the ancient temple before today's explosion, based on the numbers of the tickets issued, Mona Fathy the director of the Karnak site, confirmed to Newsweek.

Melad says that, before the political upheaval of the last three years, visitors to the site were numbering around 12,000 in a single day. The numbers of tourists to visit Egypt in general have also seen a steep decrease, from 14.7 million visitors in 2010 to 9.5 million in 2013, a 35% decrease.

However, Egypt's hotel body, the Egyptian Hotel Association (EHA), says that today's attack in Luxor will not have a lasting impact on the Egyptian tourism industry and revealed that they have been implementing security measures at hotels across the country to prevent such attacks.

"This incident will not leave us with a big loss in terms of incoming bookings and we did not hear of any cancellations yet," says Hala El Khataib, EHA secretary-general.

"I'm sure there will be minor effects compared to the level and scale of this incident. It is a priority now for the government and the private sector."

While Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warns against any travel to the northern Sinai region, where an Islamist insurgency is taking place against Egyptian security forces, there are no immediate plans to warn British tourists against travelling to cities such as Luxor. "Once the situation has been fully assessed, we will look at it [changing the status for Luxor]," an FCO spokesperson said.

Another attack was foiled in Giza today, the location of the world-famous pyramids, and last week gunmen killed two police officers in an attack on a road near the ancient site, heightening fears that those opposed to Sisi's regime are targeting these ancient sites.

Elsewhere, Isis affiliate Sinai Peninsula claimed responsibility on Tuesday for firing mortars at an airport used by foreign peacekeepers in the country's restive Sinai region.

A representative from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism was not immediately available for comment.

Egypt's tourism industry faces disaster as Islamist terrorists step up attacks |