The year 2020 was set to be a blockbuster one for tourism in Egypt. The Grand Egyptian Museum was slated to open this year after nearly two decades in the making, prompting Lonely Planet to name Cairo one of the top cities to visit in 2020. It’s easier than ever to travel around the country, with the recent introduction of e-visas, the opening of a new airport in Giza and new domestic flight routes between Sharm El Sheikh and Luxor, two of the country’s main tourist hubs.

Egyptian government tries new tactics to lure tourists
Mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri, Luxor, Egypt © Michelle McMahon/Getty Images

But even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to stifle international travel, Egypt is trying new tactics to lure visitors to the country. In June, the government eliminated the need for tourist visas for visitors to the country’s ‘touristic governorates’ – South Sinai, Red Sea, Luxor and Aswan – and the country’s cabinet has just decided to extend the incentive until the end of April 2021 to encompass the winter season, which is usually when Egypt receives the highest number of visitors. Travelers who fly with EgyptAir or Air Cairo also get a 20% discount on tickets to museums and archaeological sites.

The frontage of Coptic Museum in Cairo, Egypt.
The frontage of the central entrance of Coptic Museum © efesenko / Getty Images

The country reopened to tourists in July, and it’s yet to be seen whether these offers will entice more visitors. When arriving in Egypt, all passengers are required to present a negative PCR test certificate, with the test conducted no more than 72 hours before departure.

Egypt had expected to receive some 15 million tourists in 2020, matching the number of visitors in 2010, a year before the Arab Spring revolutions brought turmoil and uncertainty to the region, but as with all other countries, the numbers will fall far below the target. Tourism is an important industry in the country and makes up more than 10% of Egypt’s economy.

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