Czech Foreign Ministry warns against all travel to Sinai

Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, photo: Marc Ryckaert, CC 3.0 license

The Czech Foreign Ministry has issued a strong warning against all travel to the Sinai Peninsula. Quoting intelligence reports, the ministry warns of a heightened risk of terrorism across the area including the popular resorts of Sharm-El-Sheikh and Dahab. But Czech travel agencies have slammed the warning which they say is too vague.

Sharm-El-Sheikh,  Egypt,  photo: Marc Ryckaert,  CC 3.0 license
Despite political turmoil and an unsettled security situation, Egypt remains one of the most popular destinations for Czech holiday makers. Last year, some 200,000 Czechs visited the country, mainly its seaside resorts on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

But on Tuesday the Czech Foreign Ministry warned Czech citizens against all travel to the Sinai Peninsula including its most popular resorts. Jana Reinišová is the head of the ministry’s legal and consular section, responsible for travel advice.

“We have information of heightened security threats particularly in the Sinai Peninsula. The situation is serious and we cannot rule out terrorist attacks. From what we know, it’s possible that tourist resorts could also be targeted as well.”

The demonstration in Cairo,  Egypt,  June 5,  2012,  photo: CTK
The governments of many countries in Europe and around the world warn their citizens against travel to certain parts of Egypt, particularly the north of Sinai. The British foreign ministry for example advises against all but essential travel to Sinai north of the Suez-Taba road. The US State department urges American citizens to avoid all demonstrations in Egypt, while the foreign ministry of Austria warns against non-essential trips to Cairo and other urban centres.

But the strongest warning – against all travel to the Sinai and all individual trips across the whole of Egypt – came from Czechs officials.

“I can only comment on travel advice issued by the Czech Foreign Ministry, and I’d like to say we evaluate all information very carefully. Our primary goal is to protect Czech citizens but we are also aware that each such warning has consequences for the economy, for travel agencies and people who want to travel. That means we must not underestimate or overestimate the risks.”

The impact on tourism is a concern of Czech travel agencies which rejected the ministry’s warning. Their association accused the officials of acting unprofessionally as they had not consulted them in advance, and failed to specify the threat. Alexander Pavlov is the manager of Alexandria travel agency.

Photo: CTK
“Egypt has not adopted any extraordinary security measures that would confirm the Czech ministry’s warning. I really can’t imagine a situation when the Czech ministry has some secret information of an immediate threat for our tourists which Egyptian authorities would not be aware of.”

Meanwhile, the Czech Foreign Ministry says it’s impossible to estimate how long the travel warning will remain in effect.