The civil unrest in Egypt has done little to diminish its lure as a leading destination for British tourists according to research due to be published next month by tourism experts at Bournemouth University and the University of Plymouth.
Academics have been surveying the public’s perception of countries in the Middle East over the past year, before the onset of regime change and government suppression, and have continued to monitor the changes in people’s perceptions as events in the Middle East have unfolded.
They have found that the shockwaves felt by the fall of President Mubarak have not diminished the attraction of Egypt as a tourist destination where tourists go to enjoy Cairo, Luxor, the Nile and the country’s many diving resorts.
But other countries in the region have not fared so well. Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Palestine all came at the top of the ‘definitely would not go to’ list.
The project, which commenced in October 2010 prior to the unrest, has been led by Dr Yeganeh Morakabati, Lecturer in Marketing at Plymouth, in conjunction with one of the top tourism economists in the world, Professor John Fletcher from Bournemouth University’s School of Tourism.
Dr Morakabati said: “It has been fascinating to watch the effects of the political tensions and violence, in countries such as Egypt and Libya, unfold in recent months as the survey has continued to monitor perceptions real-time as they change.”
“In the case of Egypt, although people have perceived a slightly higher risk, it hasn’t stopped them from wanting to go there. Egypt is a unique destination with many unique features and the British have a long standing travelling relationship with the country.”
Using online and mail surveys, people across the UK were asked to reveal their perceptions of travel risk in the Middle East – such as terrorism, food poisoning, or crime – and which countries they would or would not go to if time and money was not an obstacle.
Professor Fletcher, Director of the International Centre for Tourism & Hospitality Research, said: “Tourists tend to paint their geography of the planet with quite a broad brush and, therefore, when events happen that negatively impact on one country they often spill over and impact neighbouring countries in the minds of tourists.”
“Therefore, the recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya could be expected to have coloured the views of potential tourists to the Middle East in general. However, tourists also tend to have short memories. This research shows that Egypt will probably recover rapidly from recent events and the tourists will quickly return.”
The survey takes into account the participants’ age, religion, political affiliation and gender, and groups responses into one of three categories: I would definitely go; I am not sure, and; I definitely would not go.
Dr Morakabati added: “Although it is correct that some countries are not very prominent on the tourism destination radar in the Middle East, it is not because of their lack of attractions. Many countries, such as Iran and Jordan, have heritage and attractions that could rival any other destination in the world.”
“The fact that they are not seen as desirable as other countries, such as Egypt, may well be a result of people’s travel risk perceptions and this was something that we wanted to explore.”