Egypt has reversed a decision to make independent travellers obtain visas before arriving in the country, after the move raised fears its fragile tourism industry could be damaged

Independent travellers will no longer have to face embassy bureaucracy to get a visa before they can admire the pyramids of Giza
Independent travellers will no longer have to face embassy bureaucracy to get a visa before they can admire the pyramids of Giza Photo: AP

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced last month that from May 15, Britons travelling outside of tour groups would not be able to obtain visas on arrival, and would instead have to face consulate bureaucracy, long waits and a higher cost to get entry permits in London.

The government has now decided that the deadline to stop issuing on-arrival visas for lone travellers will be delayed until the creation of an electronic visa system – for which it gave no timeline.

“The purpose of this measure is to organise the process of foreigners entering the country within a framework that respects national sovereignty, considers national security, and at the same time does not affect tourism,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The latest decision means that independent travellers will still be able to get a US$25 visa on arrival at Cairo and Luxor, and a free entry stamp at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Sharm el-Sheikh is a popular early-season sun destination. Photo: AP

The intention of banning visas on arrival was to bolster border security, amid fears that individuals looking to fight in Iraq and Syria would make their way to the conflcit zone via Egypt.

British tourists had been struggling to understand the extent of the changes, and whether free entry stamps would still be available at Sharm el-Sheikh for those travelling without a tour operator. British tour operators were also left waiting with little information, and were unsure whether the new rules would affect tourists travelling on an organised trip, but outside of a large group.

Egypt is trying to woo back tourists after almost four years of unrest hit the once-thriving industry, and as violence continues between security personnel, terrorist groups, and protestors.

About 10 million tourists visited in 2014, down sharply from a 2010 figure of almost 15 million people drawn to the country’s archaeological sites and Red Sea resorts.

Tourists have mostly been spared the sporadic violence that has killed more than 1,000 people since 2011, when a popular uprising overthrew longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

Three South Korean tourists were killed in a 2014 suicide bombing aboard a bus in the resort town of Taba on Israel’s border.

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