The new visa regulation announced earlier this month, which would have travelers obtain tourist visas from their home countries prior to arrival in Egypt, has officially been postponed, the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported on Thursday.
The ministries of tourism and foreign affairs said in a statement that the regulation will not be put into place until the government implements an electronic system allowing foreigners to obtain a visa online before boarding their flights to Egypt.
The government is pushing to get the e-visa system up and running “as soon as possible,” according to the statement. Until then, tourists will still be able to purchase their visas on arrival at the airport.
When the regulations were first announced, the government said that starting May 15, tourists would have to apply for a visa from an Egyptian consulate in their home countries prior to travel. The regulation would have impacted tourists from the United Kingdom, European Union, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Macedonia, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and the United States, all of whom could previously purchase their visas on arrival in Egypt.
The decision to wait on implementing the new visa system came after consultations with tourism groups and organizations, Al-Ahram said. The government hopes to improve national security with the regulations, but without negatively impacting tourism to Egypt, the newspaper added.
Elhamy Elzayat, the head of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, told Mada Masr that he was among a group of tourism professionals that urged the government to consider an e-visa system for tourists, as it will be much easier for travelers to get a visa online than at a consulate. He hopes that the e-visa will represent less of a burden for the tourism industry.
Mostafa Khalil, the chairman and managing director of Royal Manta Travel, said that Thursday’s announcement was “expected.”
“There needs to be an alternative so people can get visas online,” Khalil told Mada. “It’s already established all over the world; countries aren’t letting people enter unless they have an online visa.”
The government has often waffled on its attempts to change visa regulations. The Cabinet previously attempted to put a freeze on obtaining visas upon arrival in September 2011, again “due to security concerns.” However, that decision was lifted three days later after furious backlash from the tourism industry, including from Tourism Authority chairman Amr al-Ezaby.
At the time, Ezaby said the regulation would “harm the flow of tourism to Egypt, and its purpose is not understood.”
Despite the government’s attempts to bolster a beleaguered tourism industry, it continues to falter, according to the latest numbers from the state statistics agency CAPMAS. The number of tourists to Egypt dwindled from 781,602 in December to 667,500 in January.