The Egyptian Flag | Copyright © Rosemary E Lunn / The Underwater Marketing Company. All rights reserved
Brits wishing to visit Egypt for up to 30 days normally require an entry visa.
The single entry Egyptian visa represented great value until Spring 2014. It cost US$15 and thousands of scuba divers were quite content to pay it. Then on 1st May 2014 the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism increased the single entry visa fee to US$25.
A mere three years on the Interior Minister, Magdy Abdel Ghaffar declared on Thursday 16th February 2017 that new fees would be introduced shortly.
Expat Cairo reported "the decree stipulates raising fees to 400 Egyptian Pound for single-entry visas and 500 Egyptian Pound for multi-entry visas".
On first reading this seems a tad confusing because 400 Egyptian Pounds equates to approximately US$25. It seems that the Foreign Ministry has now waded in. They have announced that visa prices will be raised by 140%.
A liveaboard moored up overnight near the Gabal Islands, Egyptian Red Sea | Copyright © Rosemary E Lunn / The Underwater Marketing Company. All rights reserved
On 26th February 2017 the Egypt Independent reported that "The Foreign Ministry has decided to raise entry fees to Egypt from various land, sea, and air ports from US$25 to $60, starting March 1st, amid the rejection of tourism sector companies and officials. The immigration authorities, port authorities and the Tourism Companies Chamber have been notified of the decision."
Raising entry visa fees will decrease the inflow of tourists - Bashar Abu Taleb, Captain of Red Sea Tour Guides
An Egyptian Visa | Copyright © Rosemary E Lunn / The Underwater Marketing Company. All rights reserved
It is believed that the rationale for the increase is to bring the visa price in line with other countries. The Government Ministry has reviewed the cost of visas for Egyptian citizens visiting the UK, Europe and America and found them to be substantially more than to enter Egypt.
However this announcement has caused consternation within the tourism sector. Egyptian tourism has been suffering a chronic world of hurt for several years.
In 2010 14.7 million tourists visited the country spending *US$11 billion in the country.
Unfortunately, the tough combination of the Luxor Shooting (1997), the bombings (Taba 2004, Sharm 2005, Dahab 2006) and the 2011 Egyptian revolution has had a negative impact on international tourism.
This crisis was exasperated when Metrojet Flight 9268 took off from Sharm El Sheikh Airport on 31st October 2015. 219 Russians, four Ukrinians and one Belarusian lost their lives when the Russian passenger jet was downed by an ISIL bomb.
Diving day boats at Ras Katy, Sharm El Sheikh | Copyright © Rosemary E Lunn / The Underwater Marketing Company. All rights reserved
The ghost of Metrojet Flight 9268 continues to haunt Egyptian tourism. According to a report released by market research firm Reportlinker - citing Mohamed Abdel Gabbar (Head of Foreign Tourism, Egyptian Tourism Authority) - Italian bookings have dropped by 90% when compared to 2015 season. He observed that the rate of reservations for the coming summer is "worrisome". No wonder the country's tourism revenue plummeted to *US$3.4 billion in 2016. (Source: *Central Bank of Egypt).
Tourism is a vital key revenue source for tens of thousands of Egyptians. Their livelihoods and families depend on overseas visitors, hence there have been numerous calls for the planned visa price to be re-examined. It does nothing to positively promote tourism, and in fact, makes other countries a fiscally more enticing alternative destination. For example, Brits currently pay just US$20 for a Turkish tourist visa, and nothing to enter Cyprus or Malta.
Officials from the Tourism Companies Chamber have also stressed that the timing of the decision is inappropriate and would harm the tourism inflow to Egypt in light of the travel warnings currently in place. It was also raised that other countries around the world have cancelled visa charges to attract tourists.
MP Mohamed El-Masound - a member of Parliament's tourism and aviation committee - has written to the Speaker urging him to cancel the visa fee rise stating that "the decision would have negative effects on the tourism sector". He also questioned why the Cabinet would take such a decision when other countries such as Tunisia has dismised similar proposals in favour of promoting tourism.
If this goes ahead, Egypt will be nudged down the list of my favorite holiday destinations
The lobbying has made a small impact.
The author guiding in Egypt, September 2003 | Image Credit: Andrew Deans
The Tourism Ministry issued a statement to the news agency MENA confirming that the visa price hike implementation would be postponed until 1st July 2017. No reason was stipulated for the delay. It does seem the decision over visa fees reflects some of the confusion in the way the Government's functions.
I was fortunate enough to live and work in Egypt for two years as a professional dive guide and instructor. My daily office involved visting some of the very best scuba sites in the world. As I reflect on my time in wonderous Egypt I have nothing but incredibly good memories of the diving, the people and the country.
I hope most sincerely that this visa price rise is reviewed and prices are held. Egyptian tourism is having such a tough time at present and I foresee that if this price rise goes ahead, nothing good will come of it at this time.