Sunday, June 14, 2015

UPDATED: Egypt postpones scrapping on-arrival visas for individual travellers

On arrival visas will still be available for foreign tourists until an electronic visa system is introduced on a yet to be announced date. Written by Ayat Al Tawy

Egypt on Thursday postponed the date it would stop issuing on-arrival visas for individual travellers until an online visa system is put in place, a foreign ministry spokesman told Ahram Online.

Officials said in mid- March that the system remains unchanged for tour groups, which can still purchase visas at the airports. Individual foreign tourists would be required to obtain prior visas at Egyptian consulates abroad, a move officials say is meant at bolstering border security.

The changes were supposed to take effect on May 15, but foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdel Atty said the date has been delayed until an electronic system for issuing the visas is set up.

The measure "aims to organise the process of foreigners entering the country in a manner that respects national sovereignty and considers national security, without affecting tourism flow rates," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry spokesman said work is underway on the "technical sides" of the electronic visa system, without giving a specific time-frame. The new regulations had sparked criticism from local and international tour operators and travellers who have long considered the visa requirements reasonable.

In 2014, around 10 million tourists visited Egypt, a sharp slump from a record 2010 figure of over 14.7 million who visited the country's ancient sites and sea resorts.

Luring back tourists is key to efforts to shore up Egypt's flagging economy, with the vital industry contributing 11.3 percent of the country's gross domestic product and generating over 14 percent of foreign currency revenues. The country aims to attract 20 million visitors annually by 2020, recently appointed tourism minister Khaled Rami told Ahram Online in an interview in March.

This is not the first time such restrictions are introduced and shelved. In September 2011, authorities approved rules that would have forced individual tourists to apply for visas in their home countries before entering Egypt, but the plans were suspended three days later.
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