Tourism companies urge travelers in Egypt to take caution

More than $1 billion in tourism revenue have been lost since former Islamist President Mohammad Mursi’s removal

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International tourism companies have urged holiday-makers in Egypt to remain in their hotels if they are already in the northern Sinai region of the country.

The request came after the Sinai-based Islamist militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, or Supporters of Jerusalem, this week claimed responsibility for the bombing of a tourist bus on Sunday in the Sinai and threatened more attacks.

“We didn’t get any new reservations in the past three days from our usual companies,” even though “it’s supposed to be the high season for tourism in Egypt,” Raymond Heshmat, reservation supervisor at the Taba Heights resort, told Al Arabiya News.

Heba Atteya, a senior tour operator in Cairo at NTS group, told Al Arabiya News: “An important drop was noticed in our reservations,” following the bus bombing in the resort town of Taba.

“Approximately 30% of tourists from outside Egypt have canceled their bookings in Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab,” she said.

There is an increased security presence in the area since the attack, she added.

Heshmat said he fears a fall in tourist numbers over the next two months, “just when Egypt’s tourism started to flourish again following the ouster of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi,” on July 3, 2013.

More than $1 billion in tourism revenue have been lost since Mursi’s removal, Reuters reported.

The bus attack confirmed fears that Egypt’s fragile economy would be hit by militants targeting the tourism sector. However, some say the situation is not as dangerous as is being presented.

“The media is amplifying the online threat released by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis,” Hani Kamal Sayed, branch manager at NTS Sharm el-Sheikh, told Al Arabiya News.

“Some people are trying to create chaos and spread fear in Egypt. We don’t believe this threat is real,” he said.

“We have excursions and activities planned tomorrow outside the hotel, and nothing has been canceled so far by the tourism police,” he added.

In the blast, three South Korean tourists and one Egyptian driver died as the militant group celebrated the loss of one of its “heroes,” adding that it attacked the bus as it was heading towards the “Zionist entity” of Israel.

According to a statement released on a Twitter account related to the group, they are threatening more attacks.

“We recommend tourists to get out safely before the expiry of the [Feb. 20] deadline,” read the tweet.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has recently claimed responsibility for a number of attacks.

Egypt’s Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said the group is a “threat to tourists” and is undermining the political roadmap set out after Mursi’s ouster. The roadmap aims to restore democracy through presidential and parliamentary elections later this year.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said it could not “curb the feeling of resentment” over the Taba attack, and warned its citizens from traveling to Egypt.

Several European countries and the United States, among others, have also warned their citizens about traveling there.

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