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The Post-Revolution Egypt Travel Situation With NYT’s Jennifer Conlin

Locations in this article:  London, England

Nile River Fishermen Egypt - The Post-Revolution Travel Situation In EgyptIn the midst of the protests that rocked Egypt over the past few weeks, most travel providers were forced to cancel or reschedule trips, as New York Times columnist Jennifer Conlin covered in her article, “Options for Travelers Headed to Egypt.”

But with a much more ebullient atmosphere today, are we entering a sweet spot in which travelers should consider packing their bags and heading to Egypt?

Peter Greenberg: It was quite the spectacle to watch an entire transformation of a country, the dissolution of a government, and the resignation of a president who had ruled for 30 years. This was supposed to be the banner year for Egyptian tourism.
It is the singularly number-one source of their GDP, and now that is essentially in disarray. Depending on who you listen to, they’ve taken between a $1.5 and $2 billion hit on revenue just in the last two weeks of people leaving the country or canceling their future trips. I just got back from Egypt about a month ago and even then the talk was about how the government had rigged the elections and how people were disenchanted. But I don’t think anybody could have anticipated the speed at which this movement basically gathered up momentum and basically changed the country.

Egypt's world-famous Sphinx, crucial driver of tourismJennifer Conlin: No, I don’t think anyone anticipated this and I was actually living in Cairo until this past October, so I spent almost all last year there traveling around the country and hanging out with other journalists. Although we thought something might happen when the parliamentary election occurred, nobody could have foreseen anything like what we’ve seen now.

PG: I know what I would tell people: If you want to go travel to Egypt, go now. Because it is the very first thing the Egyptians will do is get its travel and tourism infrastructure back because they need it so desperately.

JC: That is completely true, because 12 percent of the work force in Egypt is in tourism and billions of dollars come from tourism to Egypt. They will make sure they get this on track as fast as possible can. I know somebody who flew out to Sharm el-Sheikh this morning, actually. They had their plans in place already and decided, you know what? We’re going to go and celebrate this time with the Egyptians. What a fascinating time to be down there.

PG: People always ask me: What’s the best time to go somewhere? The best time to go to Thailand was after the tsunami. They needed help and there weren’t crowds of tourists. I happen to think if you went to Giza today you’d have the pyramids all to yourself, and what better way to see them?

Is a recovery in tourism in the cards for Egypt? Check out Despite Recent Revolution, Egypt’s Transformation Tempting Travelers To Return.

Peter At Luxor Temple Egypt, Mere Weeks Before Protests BeganJC: Exactly. And when you think about the temples in Luxor, they’re very crowded during normal times. It’s not that they’re not beautiful and worth seeing, but to have those monuments to yourself I think would be the most spectacular trip anyone could possibly take. Apparently, after apartheid ended in South Africa there was a real rise in tourism there because there is this feeling of wanting to go and support a nation that has been through a difficult time. In Egypt, you can see even now on the news, that they’re cleaning up their streets and trying to get everything in order. Even though we’re not quite sure what will happen with this military-led government, I have a feeling it will be a very peaceful transition because they need this tourism. They need people to come; they need to get life back to normal for the people who live there.

PG: I’m going to predict something: Within the next two weeks, it will be a very narrow window, but you will see a tremendous move to discount travel there, whether it’s package tours or hotels or trips down the Nile. That window will close rapidly as people figure it out, so I would say if you really want to be a smart traveler now is the time to make that plan. Go before April 15 because after that time it is going to get more expensive.

Learn your travel lessons from Egypt: Travel Insurance And Egypt: Travel Protection During Civil Unrest

Ancient Queen Nefertiti Bust - Egyptian tourism follow-upJC: Exactly. There is still a State Department travel advisory for Egypt. You know the United Kingdom only has that for Cairo and Aswan and not for the Red Sea, but the U.S. does still seem to be advising that they don’t want any non-essential travel to Egypt. But I would imagine they will lift that in the coming day. I would hope they will lift that.

PG: Well I hate to take issue with the State Department, but I happen to think travel is essential. And with very, very few exceptions, every time the State Department tells me not to go somewhere, I go.

JC: Exactly, and it’s true that now would be the time that you’ll see history being made. I’m in London right now, but I’m incredibly tempted to just jump on a plane tomorrow because I just want to see the faces of the Egyptians. I can’t even imagine  how much fun it must be just walking around the streets right now. I can see how tourists would be able to go and just help them clean up and just have an amazing experience.

PG: I couldn’t agree more and what you’ll see is that capacity that exists now with the airlines, either the ones that canceled their flights or that are starting to resume their flights now, that capacity is going to get filled relatively quickly. that capacity is going to get filled relatively quickly. So I encourage people not to be the regular American travelers. This is your chance to take a shot and literally get out there and have an experience you’d never otherwise be able to have.

JC: Exactly. I mean to be on a felucca going down the Nile right now or take a cruise and be one of the few people floating down that gorgeous river would just be an amazing experience particularly right now.

PG: I couldn’t agree more.

By Peter Greenberg for Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio.

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