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Swiss tourists stay despite Egyptian blasts

Egyptians shocked by the attacks demonstrated on Tuesday Keystone

Swiss holidaymakers in the Sinai resort of Dahab are not coming home even though a triple bomb attack rocked the town on Monday, killing at least 18 people.

This content was published on April 25, 2006 - 22:00

The Swiss authorities have condemned the blasts, which left one Swiss man dead and a Swiss woman severely injured.

Like many countries, Switzerland did not wait long before denouncing what it called a "cowardly attack," adding that nothing could justify such action and calling on the Egyptian authorities to find those guilty quickly and bring them before the courts.

The foreign ministry confirmed that one Swiss man was among the dead. The injured Swiss, a 35-year-old Zurich resident, was flown back to Switzerland later on Tuesday.

The Swiss government decided against setting up a crisis cell or a hotline to deal with the fallout from the bomb blasts. The foreign ministry spokesman, Jean-Philippe Jeannerat, said that the small number of Swiss tourists in the area was too small to warrant it.

A hotline was set up after the Sharm el-Sheikh attack in the same area last July, but around 1,000 Swiss tourists were on holidays there at the time.

The foreign ministry did have staff on standby after the attacks on Monday, and the Swiss embassy in Cairo sent a representative to Dahab. The authorities were also in close contract with travel companies.

Staying put

These firms immediately checked to see if their customers in Dahab were all right. Kuoni, the country's biggest travel agency, said it had 30 Swiss clients in the Red Sea resort, while Hotelplan announced another 11.

TUI, another major agency, said 40 customers had booked holidays there or flights to the area.

"Everybody is fine and most want to finish their holidays," Kuoni spokesman Urs Fehr told swissinfo. "Only two clients said they wanted to come home early."

The Swiss government is not advising tourists to stay away from Egypt, but warns them to be vigilant.

"You should avoid places where there are large numbers of people," said Jeannerat. "That's usually where attacks take place."

The foreign ministry spokesman admitted there is an element of risk travelling to Egypt now, but added that tourists are free to make up their own minds and must take their responsibilities.

Tour operators haven't registered much concern from people about to head to the region.

"We have only had 20 telephone inquiries even though we have thousands of reservations," Hotelplan's Hanspeter Nehmer told swissinfo. "Just a handful of people have decided not to go to Egypt after these events."

Kuoni has heard from just two people asking to change their holiday destination, but Fehr says this not surprising since it is the low season in Egypt.

Risk factor

He reckons Dahab won't suffer from the effects of the attacks for very long. "It only takes a few months before tourists start going back to a destination that suffered an attack," he added.

Swiss tourists seem to be accustomed to risk factors at some holiday destinations. Yet they have paid a heavy price in the past: 36 Swiss tourists were shot dead alongside 26 others by a commando in Luxor in 1997.

For Nehmer, people have simply realised that there is always a risk when you head abroad.

Travel specialists have got used to the danger element as well. "It's unfortunately true, but we have learnt something from past events," admitted Nehmer.

"We now know how to collaborate with our competitors and partners such as the foreign ministry," he added. "We exchange information and we work together when we need to get people home."

swissinfo, Isabelle Eichenberger

In brief

On November 17, 1997, 62 tourists, including 36 Swiss, are shot dead in Luxor by a commando. Security forces kill six of the attackers.

On October 7, 2004, car and truck bombs go off in a number of Sinai resorts where Israelis holiday. The largest number of victims was found at the Taba Hilton, but no Swiss were hurt.

On July 23, 2005, two car bombs and a boobytrapped suitcase go off in Sharm el-Sheikh, killing 64 people and injuring over 200. There were no Swiss victims.

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Key facts

In 2003, the Swiss made 21.8 million trips with overnight stays.
47% of those trips were abroad, and nearly nine out of ten of those journeys take place in Europe.
However between 1998 and 2003, the Swiss travelled less frequently, dropping from 3.5 trips a year to three.
The amount spent each day while travelling also fell 6.4% to SFr117 ($92) per person.

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