Hisham Sasou, Egypt’s tourism minister, wants to bring vacationers back to Egypt. Security has been restored, he says.
Hotels and beaches remain empty on the Red Sea. Picture: reuters
sonnsite: Mr. Sasou, since the Egyptian military deposed Mohammed Mursi on July 3, virtually no tourists have come to Egypt. Does this remind you of the tourism slump after the revolution in 2011?
Hisham Sasou: We are feeling the effects even more. In July, we lost an enormous number of tourists. In mid-August, after the dissolution of the two Muslim Brotherhood protest camps, the numbers got even worse. I therefore call on the European countries to withdraw the travel warnings. Germany in particular is important; it is the most important market for Egypt after Russia. I can’t remember a time as bad as now.
Is Egypt a safe place for visitors at the moment?
The safety of our guests is better than ever. The security forces are working closely with me to ensure that the tourist sites are under full control. Probably the governments will not withdraw their warnings all at once, but gradually – first in the Red Sea, then in Upper Egypt, and later in Cairo.
It sounds like everything is fine. But after all, a state of emergency has been declared. There is still a nighttime curfew in the capital Cairo and other provinces.
Egypt is not Cairo. On the Red Sea, in Sharm al-Sheikh, for example, there is no curfew. The government assumes that these places are very safe. But I admit: There has been a renewed revolution. People have used illegitimate means to express their opinions.
born in 1954, has been Egypt’s minister of tourism since August 2012. He was already given this post under the Mursi government, although he did not belong to any Islamic party.
You were also tourism minister during Mohammed Mursi’s time. Do you support the hard line taken by the military and the government against your colleagues at the time?
I am a technocrat. The tough reaction was necessary. The Muslim Brotherhood had weapons in the protest camps. They used children as human shields and destroyed churches.
Yet much of the protest was peaceful.
It wasn’t. The security forces used water cannons, but the Muslim Brotherhood responded with guns. This was their revenge for ousting the supposedly legitimate president.
Do you think the worst is over? Will things remain calm?
There will be demonstrations in the future. We will accept them as long as they are peaceful. Violence will not be accepted. We will follow the political path in the coming weeks.