The Egyptian Ministry of Defence has approved tourism companies’ request to use sports utility vehicles (SUVs) on asphalt roads and off-road in the governorate of South Sinai, according to a report from the Egyptian Travel Agents Association (ETAA), from whom Daily News Egypt obtained a copy of the report.
According to the report, any company seeking to use SUVs on asphalt roads in South Sinai must obtain approvals from specialised security authorities in the Ministry of Defence, and specify the routes for the SUVs.
According to the owner of a safari trip company, the use of SUVs in Sinai has been suspended for more than six months due to security concerns. “We understand the conditions that were stipulated by security sources, and we deem them appropriate,” the owner said.
He expects safari trips to re-launch in South Sinai, especially in the next two months with inbound tourism expected from Germany, Ukraine, and Poland.
“Safari trip tourists are among the ones who spend large amounts of cash, nearly $100 per night, compared to regular tourists who spend about $60 per night,” the official added.
Safari tourism in Egypt has faced many security challenges since the killing of eight Mexican tourists in the Western Desert in mid-October 2015. The group was on a safari trip near the popular Bahariya Oasis when they were mistaken for militants and fired upon by the military.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, inbound safari tourism in Egypt represents less than 3% of total inbound tourism. The ministry has worked on increasing this percentage during the past period in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and the administration of Nature Reserves.
“Safari tourism is considered one of the most desired kinds of tourism by high-spending tourists. Many of them would take this trip annually, especially to South Sinai which includes lots of tourist areas,” Rabea Tawfiq, owner of a company for safari trips in South Sinai.
He believes that safari tourism can be greatly developed and eventually turned into a product that promotes Egyptian tourism abroad if hotels were established inside nature reserves. However, the environment will be taken into consideration in the process of establishing these hotels and arranging visits and tours to the region.
Adel Zaki, head of Itta Tours Company, told Daily News Egypt in a previous statement that total tourism income from safari trips reached more than $300m before 2011. However, this declined by 80% over the past five years due to the security turmoil in Egypt.