A UK parliamentary delegation has stated that they would recommend that Sharm el-Sheikh-UK flights be resumed.
Flights to and from the UK from the Sinai Peninsla resort had been suspended following the downing of a Russian passenger plane in October 2015, and the scrutiny of security procedures in Sharm el-Sheikh airport which followed. A previous UK government delegation had visited in November to assess the situation, including the UK envoy on aviation security and counter-terrorism experts.
The delegation of the UK’s ruling Conservative Party politicians from both the House of Commons and House of Lords was received by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. The delegation also met with Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail in Cairo on 17 January, discussing methods to boost bilateral cooperation, and the recent first session of the Egyptian Parliament.
Tourism, Jobs and Security in Egypt
According to World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) statistics, travel and tourism contributed EGP117.2bn to the country’s GDP in 2014, 5.9% of the total. This figure has been projected to rise by 4.5% per annum over the 2015-2025 period to reach EGP187.7bn in 2025. In 2014, travel and tourism directly supported 1,322,500 jobs, 5.2% of total employment, expected to rise to 1,708,000 by 2025. When including jobs indirectly supported by travel and tourism, the figure reached 2,944,000 in 2014.
President Sisi has pledged to reduce unemployment to 10% by 2020, and getting Egypt’s tourism industry back on its feet will be essential for this. According to Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, unemployment in Egypt reached 12.8% in the third quarter of 2015, down from 13.1% in the same period in 2014.
President Sisi has publicly tied reducing unemployment to the country’s internal security issues. In a December announcement on cooperation between the armed forces and the Egypt Sinai Industrial Development and Investment Company in the extraction of marble in Sinai, Sisi claimed that providing job opportunities would reduce the spread of militancy in the country.
Jobs, of course, are not everything. Three European tourists were stabbed in an attack at the Red Sea resort Hurghada on 8 January 2016. For investors in Egypt’s tourism industry, a thorough understanding of the country’s security threats is essential.
Egypt and the UK remain close partners. Prime Minister David Cameron was the first Western leader to visit Tahrir Square following the 2011 demonstrations, and has maintained close ties with the Sisi government. While human rights issues are often the focus of Egypt-UK relations, investment should be far more eye catching.
UK-based companies are some of the largest players in the Egyptian economy. In 2015, UK energy company BP pledged US$12bn of investments in Egyptian gas fields, and BG Group pledged US$4bn. Additionally, the UK’s Vodafone has the highest number of active subscribers to its mobile phone services in Egypt.
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