Blair urges tourists to take a walk on the Nile side
Egypt, Local, 1/7/2002
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's surprise decision to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays with his family in Egypt was a welcomed boost for the country's hard-hit tourism sector.
Photos of the British PM walking near the Pyramids with his family helped to reassure nervous European tourists that Egypt is a safe destination.
The Egyptian tourism industry, the country's largest foreign revenue earner, took a nosedive following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US. By November, tourism activity was down by 50 percent in some areas and hotel bookings were off by nearly 30 percent nationwide.
The fear of air travel kept many people at home this year and the spectre of bin Laden overshadowed holiday travel to the Middle East.
In one British newspaper, a cartoon depicted Blair wandering on the Pyramids plateau in front of the Sphinx, which bore bin Laden's visage.
With no confirmed links between Egypt and the world's most wanted man, such sensationalized caricatures seem grossly inappropriate.
Blair preferred to keep a low profile during his 8-day visit and was eager to explore Egypt's most famous sites with his family.
His tour included the Pyramids, Sharm el-Sheikh, St. Catherine's Monastery, Luxor and Abu Simbel.
The visit came at a critical time. Shortly before the British prime minister's arrival, the British Embassy in Cairo announced that it urged British citizens to visit Egypt, which it described as a safe country enjoying friendly relations with the UK.
It pointed out that 370,000 British tourists visited Egypt last year, many of whom came on charter flights to the country's Red Sea resorts.
High-ranking officials of other European countries have also visited Egypt in recent weeks, including the who flew direct to Aswan on a charter flight.
The holiday excursion included a visit to Abu Simbel, where the Ministry of Culture recently opened a spectacular new sound and light show.
Austria's foreign minister and her husband made a surprise visit to Egypt, appearing at the office of Zahi Hawass, Director of Giza Plateau Antiquities, to request a tour of Egypt's most famous Pyramids. At her request, no special security arrangements were made, and she and her husband visited the Pyramids along with thousands of other tourists.
The Austrian diplomat also visited the step pyramid complex at Saqqara, before heading to Luxor and Aswan to spend the New Year.
Italy's Minister of Interior also low profile approach when he Egypt over the holidays with his family.
He was seen at several monuments touring the sites along with regular tourists.
Egypt has always been a favorite holiday destination for European to whether royalty, politicians or just regular citizens seeking a relaxing holiday in an ancient land steeped in history.
It is hoped that the private visits of ranking European officials in the weeks will encourage tourists in respective countries to follow suit.
Vedrine lauds stability, security in Egypt
Palestinian ambassador denies kidnap of PLO member from Egypt
Mrs. Mubarak to open Thursday Child Book Fair
Please add a link on your webiste pointing to ArabicNews.com and bookmark ArabicNews.com & subscribe to our daily email news bulletin.
| Advertise on ArabicNews.com. MyFlowers.com sold more than $2700 of flowers in one month advertising on ArabicNews.com! Make your company, and products a success. Special rate for new and small business. Inquire!Advertising Info