A suicide bombing that killed three South Korean tourists in south Sinai has sent shockwaves through the resorts dotting its pristine coastline, with Egypt’s vital tourism industry in the crosshairs of militants.
The bombing of the tour bus on Sunday was claimed by an Al-Qaeda-inspired group that had previously focused its attacks on security forces since the military’s ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.
The group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, said in a statement that the bus attack was “part of our economic war against this regime of traitors.”
Sunday’s bombing threatens to hit the military-installed government’s efforts to revive the key tourism industry, which accounts for over 11 per cent of Egypt’s GDP.
Bus driver Fekri Habib said his company has already cancelled two tourist trips to Saint Catherine’s desert monastery, one of the south Sinai destinations that South Koreans had visited before their bus was attacked near a border crossing with Israel.
The peninsula’s southern coastline, which is popular among Western tourists for its resort towns, had been spared from the violence rocking the country since an uprising toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
In the past three years, “south Sinai was doing well in comparison with other areas, Cairo or Luxor for instance,” tourism ministry spokeswoman Rasha al-Azayzi told AFP.
Mohamed Hamdi, the owner of a souvenir shop in Sharm el-Sheikh, said it was to early to evaluate the impact.
He acknowledged however that a repeat of such an attack could deal a fatal blow to an already ailing tourism industry.
“If this happens in Sharm or Hurghada, you can say bye bye to tourism,” Hamdi said.