The Tourism Bureau yesterday confirmed that 186 Taiwanese are traveling in Egypt at the moment, but said none of them have safety issues following Wednesday’s coup that ousted former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.
The 186 are members of seven tour groups organized by different travel agencies in Taiwan and do not include independent travelers, the bureau said.
As political uprisings could potentially occur in major Egyptian cities following the military takeover, the bureau said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday decided to raise the its travel alert for the nation from “orange” to “red.”
“Orange” on the ministry’s four-color scale means that people need to be highly cautious and the ministry recommends against non-essential travel to the country in question, while “red” advises against all travel to the country.
Ministry spokesperson Anna Kao (高安) said there were not many Taiwanese living in Egypt, with a few businesspeople living in Cairo and about 50 to 60 Taiwanese businessmen in the northern port city of Alexandria.
“As the situation in Egypt is tense and volatile, people should stay away for the moment,” Kao said at a regular news briefing.
The Taiwan Trade Center in Cairo, which was set up by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council, is closely monitoring the situation and keeping in close contact with Taiwanese entrepreneurs there, she said.
Taiwanese in Egypt seeking assistance can call the 24-hour emergency line of the ministry’s representative office in Jordan at +962-79-555-2605, or its office line +962-6-55444-26 for assistance, she said.
They can also call the trade center at +20-2-24184170 or +20-2-24184941, Kao said.
Bureau statistics show that 797 Taiwanese are scheduled to leave on tours of Egypt before Sept. 30.
Should any of them decide to cancel their tours, the bureau said they are entitled to full refunds, except for non-refundable costs such as application fees for passports and visas.
Roget Hsu (許高慶), secretary-general of the Travel Agent Association of the Republic of China, said the unrest in Egypt had been in the news since the end of last month and all Taiwanese traveling to that country had been informed about the situation.
The travel agencies were only able to continue the tours after the securing consent from the travelers, Hsu said.
Since the ministry’s travel alert has been changed to “red,” travel agencies will stop putting together new groups for Egyptian trips, Hsu said.
Chen Ming-feng (陳民峰), deputy manager at Travel Land Express, monitors the Middle East tour market for the Travel Quality Assurance Association.
He said that popular destinations in Egypt include Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and the Red Sea.
Except those tourists traveling around Cairo, who might experience some inconvenience getting around the city, generally there has been no problem traveling in other parts of Egypt, Chen said.
“Protesters gather in Tahrir Square. Travelers heading to the Egyptian Museum may have to make a detour,” Chen said.
Though the political situation in Egypt has not been stable since the Arab Spring that began at the end of 2010, Chen said that the number of Taiwanese tour groups heading to Egypt has not decreased dramatically.
“Flights and tour groups might have been affected [by the Arab Spring] at the beginning, but people are still drawn to the country because it is an old civilization and is rich in tourism resources,” Chen said.
Additional reporting by CNA