“We want to preserve everyone's health and our reputation as a tourism market," said Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Manar at a press conference on Sunday.
Egypt plans to gradually resume international flights starting July 1, as well as reopen several resorts, in a bid to revive its tourism industry after activities suspended on March 19 as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Flights will resume between Egypt and countries which have reopened their airspace,” said Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Manar at a press conference in Cairo on Sunday, adding that the ministry has upgraded airports nationwide during the period of flight suspension.
Manar also stressed the hygiene checks that will take place in Egyptian airports in the coming period. Workers will sterilize all planes and flight attendants will offer only dry meals and canned beverages. There will also be a ban of any printed publications, magazines, or newspapers on board in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.
Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany also spoke during the same news conference. He announced that three governorates known for their popular seaside resorts, namely the Red Sea, South Sinai, and Marsa Matruh, will be open for foreign tourists.
“We chose these three governorates because they are coastal, far from the big cities, and recorded the lowest numbers of contaminations with the virus,” explained the tourism minister.
Travelers from countries with high rates of coronavirus infections, based on the evaluation by the World Health Organization (WHO), will be required to submit to diagnostic testing before coming to Egypt to prove they are not infected, the ministers said.
Manar and El-Enany announced an incentive package to encourage the tourism industry’s revival after the suspension of flights and temporary closure of hotels and destinations.
The package includes a 20% discount on tickets offered to travelers on Egyptian airlines, removing visa requirements on visitors to the reopened governorates, and discounts on tickets to museums and historical sites.
The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered Egypt’s tourist industry, which is estimated to account for 15% of Egypt’s foreign currency revenue and 12% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The government says the industry accounts for 5% of economic output.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the tourism industry directly employs approximately 2.5 million people in Egypt, which makes up around 9.5% of total employment.
In order to preserve the country’s reputation as a tourist market, the tourism minister said that other popular tourist destinations such as the pyramids of Giza, the Egyptian Museum, and the Philae temple will gradually reopen for foreign tourists depending on the development of the pandemic.
“We are in no rush. We want to preserve everyone’s health and our reputation as a tourism market,” he added.
The government initially permitted dozens of hotels to operate at 25% of their usual capacity for safety measures but increased the cap to 50% earlier this month, with over 230 hotels allowed to operate after implementing strict sanitary measures.
Egypt, a country of 100 million people, has registered 43,598 cases of COVID-19, including 1,575 dead and 11,931 recovered, according to official figures.