Italian tour operators call for revival of tourism links with Egypt

The heads of a number of Italian tourism companies have told members of an Egyptian delegation to Rome that the controversy over the murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni earlier this year has harmed the Italian tourism business and needs to be resolved for the sake of both nations.

The Italian businessmen shared their views with Egyptian delegates in Rome on Thursday, during a meeting intended to help revive cooperation on tourism between the two nations.

The death of the Italian PhD student in Cairo in February is one of a series of tragic events that have harmed Egyptian tourism in recent years, and Egypt has been keen to re-establish good relations with the Italian government while investigations into the mysterious murder continue.

According to the tourism industry figures present at Thursday's meeting in Rome, the Italian tourism industry has also been hit hard by the ongoing controversy, since many Italian tourism firms normally rely on arranging trips to Egypt for a large part of their income.

Giorgio Adli, owner of the Swan Tour World Group, said that between 25 to 60 percent of Italian tourists head to Egypt. Losing this large chunk of business has hurt Italian tourism companies, he said.

The crisis sparked by the murder of Regeni has become a major impediment to the flow of Italian tourists to Egypt, he said, adding that Egypt and Italy should work quickly to resolve the crisis to remedy the harmful effects on Italy's tourism industry.

Adli said he hoped the crisis would be resolved before the summer season begins properly in August.

Italy has not officially suspended Italian tourism to Egypt but Italians have been reluctant to visit Egypt since the incident, he said, pointing out that the Italian media contributed significantly to the negative messages that pervaded public opinion.

He suggested appointing a spokesperson for the crisis to avoid confusion and conflicting reports on the topic.

Meanwhile, Franco Katchaluba, director of one of the largest Italian tour operators dealing with Egypt, said his company had suffered great losses since the Regeni controversy began.

He said the two countries should realize the size of losses caused by the political stances they take.

Katchaluba also criticized Italian media outlets, saying they deceived Italians regarding the situation in Egypt.

Egyptian MP Ahmed Samih, a member of the Egyptian parliament's tourism committee, invited the heads of five Italian tour operators to visit Cairo to continue discussions on re-activating Italian tourism in Egypt.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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