With its ancient historical sites, African cuisine and Red Sea resorts, Egypt remains a popular tourist destination, but tourism has taken a hit since the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions, followed by a more recent massive anti-LGBT crackdown that began when several young people waved a rainbow flag at a Cairo concert in September 2017. Egypt has arrested more than 85 people in the crackdown and the country has since become a current-day battleground for LGBTQ rights, leading a major LGBTQ travel network to speak out against the government’s abuses and its effect on Egypt LGBTQ tourism.
John Tanzella, President and CEO of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), “the world’s leading global travel network dedicated to connecting and educating LGBTQ travelers and the businesses that welcome and support them along the way,” recently issued a statement urging Egypt to mitigate its discriminatory policies in the light of its declining reputation.
The statement reads:
The violence perpetuated against the LGBTQ community of Egypt is an affront to human rights and an insult to the tourism industry that supports its numerous historical sites — an industry that includes people of all orientations and gender identities. Data shows, time and again, that destinations endorsing discrimination suffer socially and financially; Egypt needs to rethink its actions if it wants to maintain its standing with global travelers.
Egypt LGBTQ tourism has had a mixed reputation. While LGBTQ tourists are discouraged from public displays of affection and are warned about police who use gay social apps to entrap gay men, same-sex couples can also get single bed accommodations in most mid- to high-end hotels without much ado. But the recent crackdown has made LGBTQ tourists less inclined to visit Egypt.
How discrimination hurts Egypt LGBTQ tourism
“We see that destinations that are not open [to its LGBTQ citizens] do lose tourists from not only the LGBTQ community but also allies to the community,” Tanzella says to us in an interview.
His declaration is backed up somewhat by a 2014 Williams Institute study of 39 developing countries which showed that anti-LGBTQ discrimination negatively impacted their economies. Though the study didn’t look directly at tourism dollars, its general findings were echoed in a 2017 study concluding that Indonesia’s homophobia had cost the island nation up to $12 billion a year. A similar study found that North Carolina’s transphobic bathroom bill cost the state an estimated $3.67 billion a year.
IGLTA issued a similar statement on Russia in 2013 when the country passed its discriminatory law banning so-called “gay propaganda.” While their goal is to highlight global developments affecting LGBTQ tourism, they also issue these statements as a way to rally allies and corporate global partners against queerphobic policies.
In some cases, such statements can discourage states or countries from attempting to pass anti-LGBTQ legislation, understanding the harm it can wreak on a country’s economy and reputation.
“We continue to work with our organizational partners such as the [World Tourism Organization] and other tourism entities around the globe to pressure governments like this to consider the business aspects of negative policies towards groups of individuals,” Tanzella says.
He adds that tourists, foreigners and tourism businesses (both in Egypt and abroad) can help affect positive change in Egypt, “By making their voices heard via tourism organizations in their region or globally that stress the need for Egypt or other famous tourist destinations to be open to [LGBTQ] tourism.”
“It benefits the citizens, the economy and creates an understanding and appreciation of cultural differences,” Tanzella says.
Featured image by Anadolu Agency via Getty Images