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Last year almost 4 million tourists visited Egypt, bringing billions of dollars

Egypt seeks to reassure tourists after terrorist attacks

November 28, 1997
Web posted at: 1:53 p.m. EST (1853 GMT)

From Reporter Kasra Naji

LUXOR, Egypt (CNN) -- Nearly two weeks after a terrorist attack claimed the lives of 68 people, mostly tourists, at Luxor, the Egyptian government is stepping up efforts to limit the damage to its tourism industry.

In the wake of the Luxor attack, the country's Tourism Ministry briefly pulled its "I wish I was in Egypt" television ad which touts the delights of the country. In the aftermath of Luxor, officials were concerned that the ad, a regular feature on channels around the world, overstated the message.

But Egyptians have begun a charm offensive to tell the world that it's business as usual in the country that drew almost 4 million tourists -- spending more than $3 billion -- last year.

TV Commerical
An Egyptian tourism ad has been pulled off the air in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Luxor

A group of about 60 travel agents and tour operators, guests of the Egyptian government, arrived from the United States on the day of the incident in Luxor. Their mission, originally to assess the potential of Egypt as a tourist stop and return home to sell Egypt to their clients as a destination, quickly became one of assessing the risks of travel to the north African country.

A positive verdict from the group is important to the Egyptian government if the country is to continue to attract tourists in large numbers. The government's message to them is one of reassurance.

"It's a message of apology for what has happened, deep sorrow and also a message of confidence in our country, our stability, in the security and in our product," said Egyptian minister of tourism Dr. Mamdough El Beltagi.

By the end of their tour, the American travel agents found it difficult to ignore Egypt's confidence. Their assessment: Egypt remains safe despite the fact the Luxor incident was the second such attack on tourists in less than two months.

The U.S. Department of State is urging Americans to exercise caution in Egypt. Read about the advisory here.

"Right now, it's fresh in every one's mind, and there may be a hesitation, which would be there anywhere in the world," said Don Quilleh of Plant City Travel in Plant City, Florida. "But that dissipates, it disappears. It's part of our culture, part of our world."

Most everyone in Egypt has a stake in the strength of Egypt's tourism industry -- including the country's business community, which has taken out a full-page advertisement in newspapers urging international investors to join Egypt in the fight against terrorism and not to let fear keep them away.

It's still too early to assess the damage, although some hotels are reporting a drop of about 40 percent in their bookings. Much will depend also on whether strengthened security measures announced by the government will be enough to prevent future attacks.

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