Thursday, October 29, 2020

Nile cruises sail once more, compelled to navigate river filled with challenges

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Oct 14, 2020 The cruise ship Amwaj (Wave) set sail Oct. 1 from Luxor to Aswan with a gaggle of American, Swiss and British vacationers on the very first journey on the Nile River because the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the shutdown of the tourism sector. The floating resort was the primary to acquire the required license from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to get again on monitor, following the announcement that cruises could be allowed to renew work bearing restrictions this month. “For us, resuming the cruises for tourists has been like giving the kiss of life to a dying person,” Mohamed Rabie, supervisor of Amwaj, informed Al-Monitor. “We are very honored to be the first cruise ship on the Nile to start operating. We do not have many guests on board yet, but for next week the numbers are increasing.”  Rabie mentioned eight passengers and 35 crew members are on board, whereas the ship can accommodate 124 passengers and 70 employees. Amwaj took over from Le Fayan, which departed in mid-March from the lock of Esna, midway between Luxor and Aswan, in what was the final journey on the Nile earlier than the coronavirus preventive measures took impact. Le Fayan’s final journey ushered within the unprecedented shock that the pandemic has had on the tourism business. “[Cruise ships are] the first hospitality establishments affected by a pandemic because they are a closed and small area full with guests and employees, which is considered a suitable environment for virus circulation,” Nahla Helmy, an affiliate professor within the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management at Beni Suef University, informed Al-Monitor. At the start of March, on one other cruise ship a coronavirus cluster was first detected in Egypt, after 12 asymptomatic crew members examined constructive, adopted by 33 passengers. Until then, solely three circumstances — and simply certainly one of them Egyptian — had been introduced by the native authorities. Until the outbreak of the pandemic, Nile cruises had been flourishing once more after the lengthy stagnation that the sector skilled since 2011, and despite the fact that there are not any official data of the variety of guests to the nation, 130 floating inns had been working originally of March, Helmy mentioned.  The enhance within the variety of cruise ships contributed to the brand new data registered by Egypt’s tourism business in 2019, when the nation was among the many world’s fastest-growing locations, with 13.6 million vacationers and a brand new excessive in tourism revenues of over $13 billion.  In January 2019, Bloomberg wrote that luxurious strains are returning to Egypt, and The Telegraph nonetheless thought-about Feb. 22 of this yr that there had by no means been a greater time to discover the Nile. “Prior to [the pandemic], and throughout its tourism history, cruise ships were one of the premium products of Egypt’s tourism for the foreign market,” Magued Abousedera, undersecretary of state for worldwide tourism on the Egyptian Tourism Authority, informed Al-Monitor. In May, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities began handing out hygiene certificates to inns and different websites that adhered to a set of preventive coronavirus measures. Yet the door for cruises solely opened in September. On July 1, Egypt started to additionally resume worldwide flights as a part of its plan to progressively resume tourism within the nation. The Ministry of Tourism introduced Oct. 5 that it had granted to this point 11 floating inns in Luxor and Aswan the well being certificates required to renew operations, out of the 22 that had utilized. Cruise reservations are nonetheless low, and people operators which have determined to sail once more to advertise the sector are anticipated to incur vital monetary losses, sources informed Al-Shorouk News. To assist the tourism business take in the impression of its collapse, the Egyptian authorities has provided a help package deal that features delays on cost of presidency dues and providers and on debt repayments. Abousedera mentioned that cruise ships have benefited from these measures, too. Due to the persistence of the disaster, the help package deal was prolonged Sept. 30. “Nile cruises are passing through a very critical crisis now,” mentioned Helmy, who not too long ago authored an article on the revitalization of Egyptian Nile cruises that included a questionnaire distributed amongst 35 managers of sampled floating inns. “Most of the floating hotels are closed, the majority of their staff is on half-paid vacation and not working, and although the infection rate in Egypt has decreased few floating hotels are operating,” she mentioned. “Moreover, no one knows when this crisis will end,” she added, noting that the managers within the sector “are upset and dissatisfied.” Abousedera famous that one of many principal challenges for the sector within the quick time period is to seek out new vacationers, on condition that cultural tourism and cruise ships in Egypt primarily rely upon the European market, together with international locations like Germany, Spain and France, a few of that are nonetheless severely affected by the unfold of the virus that causes COVID-19. Besides the uncertainty surrounding this disaster, Helmy acknowledged that the principle challenges for the sector embrace the lack of certified employees since 2011, the restricted upkeep and engineering renovation actions for the floating inns and the weak infrastructure. Another main problem looming over Nile cruises is the impression of local weather change. A report by the Union for the Mediterranean revealed in July 2018 identified that local weather modifications and improvement initiatives in upstream international locations “directly threaten the movement of floating hotels and Nile tourism in different parts of the river, particularly the Luxor-Aswan sector.” The report additionally identified that Nile tourism “suffers from the low water level, the appearance of islands in the river stream and the waterway between Qena, Luxor and Aswan not being cleaned.” However, Abousedera believes that, within the near future, the low charges of coronavirus infections registered in Egypt makes it a sexy vacationer vacation spot, particularly with the onset of fall and winter, which coincides with the vacationer season within the nation. Helmy mentioned that Nile cruises are additionally nicely positioned to flourish once more as soon as the coronavirus disaster vanishes, particularly due to the quite a few world-famous vacationer sights and sightseeing excursions provided notably in Luxor and Aswan. She added that the sector can profit from the continual direct and oblique promotional and advertising actions of Upper Egypt cruises, its lengthy expertise, the group of worldwide occasions within the area, the steadiness of its costs and its sturdy relations with massive worldwide and American travel companies. “Luxor and Aswan are distinctive tourist destinations and can never be substituted by another place, especially for cultural tourism. Egypt possesses monuments and antiquities rarely found in other places in the world, going back to the Ancient Egyptian civilization,” she concluded.

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