Unrest In Egypt Isn't Keeping All Tourists Home There are thousands of foreign tourists in Egypt right now and many are traveling on group tours. The Egyptian government's shutdown of internet and phone service is making it difficult for tour operators to stay in touch with their employees and monitor the safety of their clients.
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Unrest In Egypt Isn't Keeping All Tourists Home

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Unrest In Egypt Isn't Keeping All Tourists Home

Unrest In Egypt Isn't Keeping All Tourists Home

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GUY RAZ, host:

This week, Egypt became a country that for the moment, is definitely not tourist friendly. Tourism brings in more than $11 billion into the Egyptian economy each year. But after the protest began, tour operators outside Egypt started to cancel trips, and it's left a lot of vacation plans up in the air.

NPR's Serri Graslie has our story.

SERRI GRASLIE: Kurt Kutay is the president of Wildland Adventures, a company that organizes adventure-based travel around the world. When protests started in Egypt earlier this week, he considered canceling an upcoming trip there. But when the government cut off all communication, the decision was made for him.

Mr. KURT KUTAY (President, Wildland Adventures): Now we can't reach, you know, anybody. So we're going to be refunding our guests 100 percent of what they had paid. But, you know, we can't otherwise confirm what's happening in Egypt at all.

GRASLIE: Kutay says his company specializes in taking visitors off the beaten path, and that might sometimes involve trekking through areas with political unrest. But he says in the last 25 years, there have never been any big problems because they've always had eyes on the ground.

Mr. KUTAY: You know, we have to be able to communicate with the people we work with. And when we can't communicate with them at all, then that puts us in a much more precarious position to be able to make the right judgment for the safety of our guests.

GRASLIE: Intrepid Travel, another adventure tour company, sends around 3,000 people to Egypt each year. Matt Berna, the company's U.S. general manager, says his crew is relying on a satellite phone to stay in touch. He has a permanent staff in Cairo who can deal with current travelers and will be there to greet arriving ones.

Mr. MATT BERNA (U.S. General Manager, Intrepid Travel): In some cases, clients from the U.S. have already departed, so they'll be met on the ground by one of our ground ops team, and then transferred to the hotel.

GRASLIE: Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert, advising Americans to avoid any non-essential travel to Egypt. But that hasn't been enough to change the minds of some travelers, who will be arriving in the country in the next few days.

Ronen Paldi, with Ya'lla Tours, says only one couple has backed out of a group due to arrive this weekend. Paldi had his Egyptian staff stay home so they'd have landline access. Yesterday, he was talking with his hotel manager every hour to make sure they were able to keep in touch. He was also changing reservations from hotels downtown to those near the airport and military headquarters.

Mr. RONEN PALDI (President, Ya'lla Tours USA): That's also where the president is, and it's very well-protected - and it's very quiet. They're flying on Sunday anyway to Luxor to start the Nile cruise, and they will be out of any harm's way within 24 hours of their arrival to Cairo as it is.

GRASLIE: Berna and Paldi did not report many tourists backing out of trips. Paldi says he thinks there is a sense among travelers that the turmoil won't last too long.

Mr. PALDI: I think people are looking at the situation very closely, and everybody believes that sooner than later, the situation will be resolved.

GRASLIE: In fact, right before I spoke with him, he received a new reservation: a family of seven, for a trip in April.

Serri Graslie, NPR News.

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