CAIRO: Egypt’s Tourism Promotion Authority office in New York announced Friday Egypt would no longer offer visas upon arrival to any non-Egyptian wishing to travel to Egypt for tourism effective May 15, 2015.
“Individual tourists must obtain visas (from the Egyptian Diplomatic Mission) prior to their arrival to Egypt. No visas will be issued upon arrival to the country,” according to the statement.
The statement issued from New York states that groups who book travel through Egyptian Travel Agencies are exempt from this requirement, and may have the Egyptian company obtain the visa on their behalf. This statement, however, contradicts a message posted by the Egyptian Embassy in Paris on its website, which states that there are no exceptions for any foreigner, and all visas must be applied for in advance.
Multiple persons at Egyptian embassies and consulates, as well as officials at the local Tourism Promotion Authority were unable to comment.
The timing of the announcement coincided with the start of the Egypt Economic Development Conference held in Sharm el-Sheikh, the goal of which is to drum up investment in the Egyptian economy; tourism constitutes 11.3 percent of Egypt’s GDP, and until now has offered visas upon arrival for most western nations.
According to the travel and tourism competitiveness report published by the World Economic Forum in 2013, Egypt dropped 10 places in the global assessment to the 85th position.
“Why would the tourism authority issue such regulation now? Tourism in Egypt has witnessed a sharp decline in numbers of tourists visiting the country especially from the U.S. and North America, ”the chairman of a leading travel agency in Egypt spoke to The Cairo Post on the condition of anonymity.
North America accounts for 18 percent of annual incoming tourism to Egypt, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism.
“Though North American tourists [from U.S.A and Canada] represent only 18 percent of Egypt’s annual incoming tourism, they have been topping the list of Egypt’s tourists’ expenditures during the past two decades,” said the Chairman.
According to the Central Bank of Egypt, tourism is ranked second in terms of most important sources of income for Egypt after remittances from Egyptians abroad, and is followed by income from the Suez Canal.