EgyptAir Flight Crash Adds 'Nails in the Coffin' for Egyptian Tourism, Travel Expert Says

Whatever the cause of the plane tragedy, tourism to suffer, experts say.

ByABC News
May 20, 2016, 2:13 PM

— -- The crash of an EgyptAir jet this week is another blow to Egypt's beleaguered tourism industry, which is still recovering from the effects of previous tragedy.

Officials have not yet announced what caused the plane's disappearance, but there’s no mystery about the likely economic fallout, observers say.

"All I can say at this point is that no matter what the cause, this and past events are nails in the coffin of the Egyptian tourism industry," George Hobica, founder of, told ABC News today.

EgyptAir flight MS804 disappeared en route to Cairo from Paris with 66 people on board early Thursday, marking the country's second recent airline tragedy after the October downing of a Russian jet that killed 224 people on board shortly after departing Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport. An EgyptAir domestic flight was also hijacked in March 2015.

The tourism industry comprised 5.9 percent of Egypt's GDP in 2014, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. The industry generated more than 1.3 million jobs, or 5.2 percent of total employment, in 2014, according to the council.

Besides the tragedies, political events, including a 2011 uprising that led to the end of President Hosni Mubarak's 30 years in power, have also scared away some tourists, experts say.

PHOTO: An EgyptAir plane is seen parked the terminal at Cairo International Airport, May 20, 2016.
An EgyptAir plane is seen parked the terminal at Cairo International Airport, May 20, 2016. Debris including seats and personal belongings from EgyptAir Flight 804 which crashed in the Mediterranean carrying 66 people was found 180 miles north of Alexandria.

Tourist destinations -- from historic sites like the pyramids to luxury resorts -- are likely to be hit further by any additional tragedies, experts say.

The October Metrojet crash over the northern Sinai, for which ISIS claimed responsibility, led the countries that provide the most tourists to Egypt -- Russia and the U.K. -- to restrict flights to the Mideast country.

Sinai’s popular Sharm El-Sheikh area has a number of five-star luxury hotels, including resorts by Four Seasons, Hyatt Regency and Hilton. But it was still a "ghost town" three months after the Flight 9268 crash, board member Amani El-Torgoman of the Egyptian Tourism Federation commented in February.

“You cannot call what’s happening a drop, it’s a collapse,” El-Torgoman told Bloomberg News of the country’s tourism industry. “There is definitely an overreaction to the plane crash, and it is devastating.”

The Egyptian Tourism Authority did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

The Airbus A320 that crashed this week is among the safest and most widely used commercial jetliners in the world. There were 12 nationalities on board the flight that crashed this week, mostly Egyptians but also passengers from France, Sudan, Canada, Portugal, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Chad.

"The fact that there were only a few dozen people on the flight speaks volumes about the damage already done" to tourism, Hobica, the founder, said.