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Egypt delays controversial tourist visa restrictions

Egypt swaps controversial visa rules for new online system that will be up 'as soon as possible'
Tourists enjoy a view at the Great Sphinx of Giza near Cairo (AFP)

Egypt has delayed the introduction of controversial visa rules, which would have required visitors to apply for visas in their home country instead of at the airport.

Instead, the government will strive to implement an e-visa system that will be up and running “as soon as possible,” the ministries of tourism and foreign affairs said in a statement carried in the state-owned newspaper al-Ahram newspaper.

The proposed system should act as a sort of compromise, and will allow foreigners to obtain a visa online before boarding their flights to Egypt, but will not require them to directly visit the embassy.

The tightening of visa rules, which was due to take effect on 15 May, was first announced last month. It immediately proved controversial, with concerns high that it would further hit Egypt’s struggling tourism sector.

Egypt has been desperately trying to rebuild its battered tourism sector, which declined following the waves of turbulence that have occurred since the overthrow of former strongman Hosni Mubarak in January 2011.

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.

Several industry experts said that Thursday’s announcement was expected.

Mostafa Khalil, the chairman and managing director of Royal Manta Travel, told Egyptian news website Mada Masr: “There needs to be an alternative so people can get visas online. It’s already established all over the world; countries aren’t letting people enter unless they have an online visa.”

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