Egypt's Booze Ban Threatens Tourism

By Ben Feuerherd 02/15/13

An alcohol ban under the new conservative government sparks economic concerns.

Will tourists still flock to a drier Egypt?
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Starting this week, the Egyptian government will no longer issue alcohol licenses in some urban areas, including growing economic hubs, sparking fears that the more conservative climate will harm the nation's tourism industry. The decision was made by president Mohammed Morsi, who has ties to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, signaling the country's growing conservatism. "We cannot allow stores spreading debauchery in our society,” said Vice-president of the new Urban Communities Authority, Nabil Abbas, while announcing the move. But many believe the decrease in debauchery could also lead to a decrease in tourists, who help drive the nation's economy. Although the ban is unlikely to affect key holiday destinations—particularly resorts on the Red Sea—one Cairo-based news website described it as “the end of alcohol in Egypt." But Peter Lilly, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Travel Association, believes "financial realities" will prevent the conservative government from restricting alcohol sales any further. “Egypt is very volatile so it’s impossible to give cast-iron guarantees, but tourism is absolutely vital to the country’s economy,” says Lilly, “Even those in government who dislike some of the 'negative’ aspects of tourism which offend Muslims—such as alcohol—know it would be madness to effectively close the door to tourists." Approximately 11.5 million tourists visited Egypt in 2012.

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Benjamin Feuerherd is a city reporter at the New York Post. He has previously worked for The Daily Beast and NBC. You can find him on Linkedin and Twitter