Egypt, Jordan and other regional neighbours are starting to see a serious downturn in their tourism sectors due to a slump in bookings blamed on the Israel-Hamas war, according to industry insiders.
Data and commentary coming out of the USTOA Annual Conference and Marketplace, as well as reports to local media, paint a worrying picture.
Some tour providers say bookings for 2024 are down by between 40 and 50%. Pamela Hoffee, president of Avalon Waterways, which offers chartered Nile River cruises told Travel Weekly, “The impact has been pretty severe, quite honestly, for the first quarter of 2024.”
Close to half of our guests cancelled for the first quarter.Pamela Hoffee, President of Avalon Waterways
This was echoed by tour operator Collette, which boasts about its “cancel- for-any-reason” policy on the front page of its website. Customers are apparently taking the company at its word, with cancellations for Egypt and Jordan “in the 30-40% range for our near-term departures,” according to Vice President Jeff Roy.
This despite efforts by Jordan’s tourist board to reassure holidaymakers.
Jobs and small business at risk
And it is not just Egypt and Jordan suffering the economic fallout of the war, Roy added. Fourth quarter bookings across the region saw a downturn immediately after the Hamas attacks in Israel on 7 October.
The reality for regional business owners and workers on the ground, from hoteliers, to taxi drivers to restaurants to supermarkets to diving instructors, is that jobs and livelihoods are on the line if the trend continues. “When hotel owners find their source of income is decreasing due to the lack of tourists, they will think about reducing expenses,” said Moustafa Hassan, a food and drinks manager at a Sharm el-Sheikh hotel, speaking to DW. “They see that salaries are the primary expenses,” he added.
Meanwhile it is small businesses in Jordan “that have been thriving in recent years with significant investments from young Jordanians”, according to a Jordanian travel consultant, that look likely to suffer.
Lebanon bookings down 74%
Financial consultancy Nasser Saidi & Associates released an October market briefing signalling that ticket purchases for Egypt had fallen 26% since early in the month, for Jordan by 49% and for Lebanon by a colossal 74%, compared to the same period last year. Lebanon’s GDP is up to 40% tourism-based, but amid U.S. travel warnings not to visit the country due to the presence of Hezbollah, hotel occupancy is at between just 0 and 7%.
In Morocco and Tunisia meanwhile, bookings are down between 15 and 20%, Le Monde has reported.