Sinai bus explosion to harm Egypt's tourism

Updated: 2014-02-17 09:52


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CAIRO -- Egypt's bus explosion on Sunday in the governorate of South Sinai, which killed three tourists from the Republic of Korea as well as the Egyptian driver, is likely to harm the country's already-suffering tourism.

In the volatile peninsula of Sinai, many attacks occurred in the past few months targeting security personnel and facilities, but Sunday's blast, in the border town of Taba, is the first to target tourists since July 2005, when a spree of bombings killed 88 Egyptians and foreigners in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Egyptian Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou told state TV that the Taba explosion was aimed at "hitting the tourism of Egypt," which has started to witness slight recovery.

He added his ministry will review its security plans with the Interior Ministry.

Tourism is one of Egypt's main sources of income. As many as 4 million Egyptians used to work in the industry before the country fell in a state of turmoil three years ago, which witnessed two presidents being toppled.

In 2010, tourism alone brought Egypt about $13 billion as more than 14.7 million tourists visited the country.

Adel al-Gendy, head of the department of international relations and strategic planning at the Tourism Ministry, reassured that the ministry has drawn up alternative plans to boost the sector, admitting the bus blast will surely cast its shadow on the industry.

"We will enhance our presence in Sinai and will soon hold celebrations and promote seminars in Taba to alleviate the negative effects of the bloody incident," Gendy told Xinhua.  

Security experts see the blast as "a quantum leap" in the terrorist activities in Egypt, particularly after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in early July 2013.

"Today's Taba blast represents a dangerous quantum shift in terrorist activities in Egypt," General Abdel-Latif al-Bedaini, security expert and ex-assistant interior minister, told Xinhua.

"The blast aims to hit Egypt's tourism sector, which has been already suffering. It represents a war against the Egyptian economy," Bedaini added, noting that the state needs to act as strictly and decisively as possible against such acts.

He attributes Egypt's ongoing violence to the growing division in the country since Morsi's removal, referring to the constant anti-government protests staged by Morsi's supporters and the security crackdown on them.

Since Morsi's ouster, Islamist hardliners took Sinai as a stronghold for launching anti-security attacks, condemning his deposition as "a military coup." In response, the security forces waged massive security operations on "terrorist" hideouts in the Peninsula.

Bedaini, also a crisis management professor, recommended a political solution to end their conflict.

"Security solutions alone are not effective enough in the current stage," Bedaini explained. "Conflicting parties should hold dialogues and reach a political solution for the best interest of the country."

For security reasons, the authorities shut down communication networks in Taba and Saint Catherine in South Sinai and closed the Taba crossing on the border with Israel until further notice.