If the conflict ends or remains contained, American travel to Egypt could recover faster than expected.
Egypt tourism is facing cancellations from many American tourists due to the Israel-Hamas war.
Great Wonders of Egypt, a Cairo-based destination management company that specializes in cultural tourism and adventure tourism, said over half of its American travelers have canceled their trips for November and December.
Intrepid Travel, which serves a large number of American tourists, has seen an increase in cancellation requests for tours in Egypt through 2023 — with the vast majority opting to book trips elsewhere, said a spokesperson.
“We think the season’s really going to be lost for most operators who handle the U.S. market through the Christmas period,” said Kelly Torrens, vice president of product for Kensington Tours.
Egypt Tourism Impacted Over Fear of War Spreading
When the Israel-Hamas war started on October 7, American cancellation requests came for the two immediate weeks but none came for November and December, said Basem Salah, co-founder and director of operations for Great Wonders of Egypt. Yet as the war escalated, cancellations for subsequent months mounted.
Cruise operators Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean recently told investors that there has been a slowdown in bookings and a rise in cancellations for the Middle East region. Both companies removed Israel from their itineraries.
Egypt tourism can be affected even though the conflict hasn’t spread there. “They just feel unsafe to be in the region, and this is happening because, to them, they don’t know what’s happening tomorrow for us,” said Salah.
2024 Could Be Better for Egypt
This year has so far been a strong one for Egypt tourism, with a record 10 million tourists in the first eight months.
“It was going very well. It was busy everywhere. It had been a wonderful season,” said Salah.
Tour operators are hopeful for 2024, and they can look to past history for some positive patterns.
In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, tour operators reported a spike in cancellations in April and May for Ukraine’s neighboring countries. As time passed and fears of the conflict spreading ceased, bookings recovered through the summer. A similar scenario could play out for Egypt.
Yet weak bookings for spring trips in Egypt point toward pessimism.
“We’re hopeful that the winter and the spring will be good, but we just don’t know at this point, and new bookings are still trickling in, but they’re very light compared to what they would typically be for sure,” said Torrens. “We think a lot of [travelers] would rather just make other plans and think about Egypt for 2025, so we don’t think that it’s very short-term,” said Torrens.
The Egyptian government responded by saying the concerns were overstated.
Some cruise operators are optimistic about Egypt in 2024.
“We are more bullish about the ability to return to places like Egypt and other places in the Middle East,” said Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Harry Sommer in a third-quarter earnings call.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the month of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was February 2022.
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Photo credit: Americans are nervous about traveling to Egypt as the Isarel-Hamas war rages on. Spencer Davis / Unsplash