Following violent protests over the final weekend of June, the US Department of State has warned US citizens travelling to or living in Egypt to defer non-essential travel to or within the country due to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest. On 28 June, the Department authorised the departure of a limited number of non-emergency employees and family members. The Department issued a statement that read: “[We] strongly urge US citizens to avoid all demonstrations in Egypt, as even peaceful ones can quickly become violent, and a foreigner could become the target of harassment or worse. Because of the proximity of the US Embassy to Tahrir Square in Cairo, the US Embassy has sometimes been closed to the public on short notice due to violent protests. Should security forces block off the area around the US Embassy during demonstrations, US citizens should contact the American Citizens Services section before attempting to come to the US Embassy during that time.”
British tourists were given similar advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office: “Exercise caution at potentially sensitive locations such as government buildings, police stations, security directorates, political party offices, military barracks, the vicinity of Tahrir Square, the presidential palace and the Mokkatam area in Cairo.” Other warnings of the same nature came from the governments of France, Germany and New Zealand.
In Australia, meanwhile, the Herald Sun has reported that local tour companies are diverting tourists away from areas of unrest in Egypt, with several making changes to itineraries and hotel arrangements. Matt Cameron-Smith, managing director of Trafalgar, a travel agency, said: “We contacted all guests ahead of departing for Egypt and while rescheduling and a full refund were offered, those booked with Trafalgar were undeterred. We made one hotel change and upgraded guests to a quieter area, but that aside, we continue to see strong interest and booking in Egypt for the months ahead.” Another agency, Cox & Kings, is introducing a Middle East Guarantee to its bookings for the region, whereby travellers are given the opportunity to cancel their holiday up to 24 hours prior to travel, and they will receive a full refund on any land arrangements paid – if the Australian government puts a ‘Do not travel’ advisory on its Smartraveller website. Nigel Loveday, corporate director of Cox & Kings, commented: “We believe that this guarantee offers passengers an opportunity to make travel plans with confidence, and respond to the most serious travel advices [sic] should they occur at a later stage.” A similar safety net was introduced by Abercrombie & Kent, another travel agent, earlier this year, and has already proven popular, according to managing director Suajta Raman, who added: “Sales have been volatile as Egypt has had a few civil disturbances, but they have tended to come back quickly.”
Protestors demanding the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi are continuing to gather in Tahrir Square. During the recent protests, at least seven people have been killed and more than 600 wounded in clashes.