JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY IMAGES
By Paul Brady, Condé Nast Traveler
Egypt's Arab Spring was a revolution fanned if not ignited by social media, its participants say, so perhaps it should be no surprise that Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou took to YouTube recently to assuage fears that his country should be off-limits to tourists. As he says in the clip, shot head-on in a confessional style familiar to users of the video-sharing site, governments should "lift, even on a gradual basis, the negative travel advisories." The resorts along the Red Sea and in Southern Sinai are safe, Zaazou insists, despite "a major political change."
Elsewhere in the country, Zaazou says, "The violence you may have seen on your television screens? I assure you that level of violence is dwindling down very fast. The security and safety is now, currently, even better by the day." He immediately corrects himself: "By the hour!"
But if the point of the clip was to reassure tourists that Egypt remains safe, the tourism minister failed miserably. Camera shake and an uncomfortably tight frame are not compelling advertisements for antiquarian wonders and contemporary history-in-the-making. If Egypt is ready for visitors, why is an amateurish interior shot the best the country's tourism minister can muster?
Another clip on the YouTube channel to which the message was posted does little to bolster the claim that all is well. Still photos -- rather than video -- cobbled together with Ken Burns-style effects show vacationers holding signs praising the safety of Sharm el-Sheik and other Red Sea resorts. But the awkwardly posed beach scenes lack life -- and they're a newspaper front page short of being, essentially, proof of life photos, with the resorts themselves being the entity in dire danger of untimely demise.
No doubt the country and its citizens face enormous challenges, with the struggle to rebuild a vital tourism economy only one of many. But an easy first step toward a real tourism recovery should start with reliable information not stage-managed interviews with visitors to Sharm el-Shiekh that are hastily edited and uploaded as last-ditch propaganda. And a tripod for Zaazou's next YouTube confessional couldn't hurt either.
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