We just got off the phone with ElSayed Khalifa, director of the Egyptian Tourist Authority, to find out what today's headline-making abdication of President Hosni Mubarak will mean for the civil unrest in Cairo and the rest of the country, and for the future of travel to Egypt.
"Today means that the crisis is no more, first, and it's a very important step in going back to normal," he said. "We are very hopeful that we will resume promotional activities in order to get traffic to Egypt to its normal levels."
Naturally, things won't go back to normal immediately, he added: "Of course, we have many cancelations for February and March," Khalifa acknowledged. "In terms of re-selling Egypt, I don’t see a problem for people in April and beyond."
But before travel to Egypt can resume, one important thing has to happen: The State Department will need to cancel the travel warning it issued during the height of the protests. "As long as that's active, we can't send anyone to Egypt," Khalifa said. "It will take effort on a diplomatic level to take out this warning so professionals here—tour operators and travel agents—can work again in promoting Egypt and sending groups."
That step, he added, will depend on talks and discussions that will likely be taking place at the U.S. embassy in Cairo or in the Egyptian embassy in Washington, D.C. "If these contacts are successful and this warning is abolished or canceled, then you will find professionals here able to sell the destination again," he said. "How long it will take, I cannot speculate, but we should begin working on this as soon as possible."