CAIRO: Egypt’s Minister of Tourism Khaled Ramy will hold discussions with presidential aide Fayza Abu el-Naga and Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar Saturday over a decision to ban individual foreign travelers from obtaining visas upon arrival, according to a statement from the Ministry of Tourism Friday.
On March 12, a number of Egyptian consulates announced a Foreign Ministry decision to end the system of visa upon arrival for foreign individuals; the decision is scheduled to come into force May 15.
Per the decision, foreign individuals who wish to travel to Egypt must obtain visas from the Egyptian consulates and embassies in their home countries first. Those coming to Egypt for group travel who have booked through local tour agencies are exempted from this rule, and may still obtain visas at the airport.
Ramy voiced Wednesday his reservations about the decision as it may negatively affect the tourism influx. The reason behind this ban was not declared in the Foreign Ministry’s decision which stirred anger among tourism sector workers.
“The decision came in light of cautious measures to protect Egyptian National Security to prevent the infiltration of terrorists through the tourism sector,” said Adela Ragab, economic advisor of the Ministry of Tourism, Wednesday, adding that an estimated 2 million individual tourists visited Egypt in 2014.
Until now, Egypt has granted visas on arrival for those coming for tourism, which for citizens of Europe and the U.S. are valid for 90 days. Business visas are technically required to work in Egypt, although many foreigners come in on tourist visas and renew them.
Egyptian authorities have denied entry to a number of activists, including a delegation from Human Rights Watch (HRW) in August 2014 who had come to release a report criticizing Cairo on the dispersal of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in August 2013. The delegation was turned away at the airport.
American scholar Michele Dunne was barred from entering Egypt in December because she had no business visa, after she had been invited to attend a conference at the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA.)
Additional reporting by Rany Mostafa and Mervat Rashad