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Egypt: Is it still safe to travel?
From: CNN          Published On: August 16, 2013, 17:00 GMT
 
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Egypt: Is it still safe to travel?

Government travel advisories to Egypt have been stepped up and tourists' movements restricted as the crisis in Cairo and other cities continues.

Today Germany extended its advice against Egypt travel to include the Red Sea beach resorts around Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, according to the Arabic broadcaster LBCI. These areas have been largely immune from the unrest of recent months and foreign governments have tended to advise that they are safe.

Yesterday, the government of Hong Kong also raised its travel warning, to "black," urging against all travel to Egypt.

On Wednesday night, following the day of violence in Cairo during which more than 500 people died, vacationers in Hurghada had letters posted through their hotel bedroom doors telling them to stay within the hotel grounds and that all excursions had been canceled, the TravelMole website reported.

The lockdown was over today, according to reports. One traveler posting on a Hurghada TripAdvisor forum, under the name Sally_Asling, said: "In the hotel it feels safe and we are having a fab holiday."

Deadly clashes

The warnings to tourists and updated travel advisories follow clashes in Cairo on Wednesday in which hundreds of people were killed as government security forces, in some cases reportedly using bulldozers, dispersed sit-ins by supporters of the deposed Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsy.

U.S. and British travel advisories on Egypt remain basically unchanged. The U.S. State Department continues to urge its citizens to leave Egypt, if they can. Any remaining in the country should monitor local media for updates on the unrest, it says.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office continues to advise against travel to Egypt, except the Red Sea resorts. It notes that a man was killed this week in clashes in the city of Hurghada, although away from tourist areas.

Compensation

Government travel advisories are important not only for travelers' safety but because they affect what compensation they can claim.

Following the German government's announcement, the tour operator TUI Germany said it was cancelling all trips to Egypt until September 15 and that travelers already in its resorts could stay for the remainder of their holiday or leave early.

In Britain, a travel journalist specializing in the Middle East, Matthew Teller, told the Guardian: "What the FCO does or doesn't say rules the roost in terms of what tour operators can and can't offer clients."

Travelers were unlikely to be able to change their plans if they were booked to travel in an area, such as Sharm el-Sheikh and other Red Sea resorts, that the government deemed safe, he said.

Cancellations

Other large travel firms were altering or canceling their Egypt travel programs, in addition to TUI.

Thomas Cook said it had canceled all excursions from Red Sea resorts to Cairo, Luxor and sights including Moses Mountain and St Catherine's Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula.

Kuoni, the UK-based operator, has also canceled all Egyptian excursions for 30 days.

British Airways has changed its flight schedules to Cairo to avoid the dusk-to-dawn curfew the government has imposed as part of its state of emergency, although tour operators are still being allowed to operate overnight transfers to Sharm el-Sheikh.

"We are also offering customers the option of rebooking to a later date, or to another destination," a BA spokesman said.

Most tourists fly to the Red Sea resorts directly. Easyjet, which runs flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, said it was allowing some passengers with flights booked to Egypt within the next few days to change their destination.

The cruise operators MSC, Costa and Holland America Line have also reportedly canceled their Egypt-bound ships.

Tourism vital

The latest violence in months of unrest in Egypt can only do further damage to the country's vital tourism industry, which normally employs around 10% of the workforce and brought in $10 billion in 2012.

As chaos has increasingly gripped the country, beginning with anti-government protests in 2011 that led to the overthrow of the Hosni Mubarak regime, tourist numbers have fallen by almost one-third -- from 14 million in 2010 to 10.5 million last year.

In further news, the Egyptian ministry for antiquities has closed archaeological sites and museums across the country to protect them from looting, the Egyptian newspaper al Alhram reported.


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