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Egypt’s decision to require Canadians planning to vacation in the Middle Eastern country to get a visa before setting off on their holiday has quickly drawn dismay from this country’s travel industry.
Canadians have traditionally been able to get visas upon arriving in Cairo, but that convenient arrangement will end Oct. 1, prompting CATO to express “shock” that they will have to soon begin requesting their visas in person at Egyptian diplomatic missions in Ottawa or Montréal or send an application by mail, which could be a lengthy time without a passport.
“Whether applying in person or by mail, these changes bring added and unwanted complexity for the traveller,” CATO said in a statement. “This change presents a significant issue for tourists who are leaving in October and will likely cause frustration for those departing later, especially for group travellers.
“These new restrictions could also potentially decrease the interest of many Canadian travellers and discourage them from visiting Egypt. These changes create barriers against selling Egypt to Canadian citizens, and CATO members have indicated an increased number of calls from worried travellers and travel agents due to these abrupt changes.”
The association added that it “hopes that the Egyptian Authority will understand the importance of Canadian business in Egypt and recognize the pivotal role that tour operators play as partners to the destination and its tourism business. CATO urges the government in Egypt to reconsider these restrictions and, if not upon arrival in Egypt, to at least allow an ongoing permanent online application form.”
CATO is also asking for more lead time before the changes are implemented.
Moira Smith of Goway, which sends clients to Egypt, said complications have already arisen for that tour operator.
“Canadians have always needed a visa for Egypt but up until recently they could get it on arrival or beforehand through the Egyptian e-visa portal,” she stated last week. “Late August we received a notification that Canadians had to get an e-visa and could no longer get it on arrival. They then rescinded that and advised that Canadian passport holders have to obtain a visa directly from the Egyptian embassy or consulate office in Canada prior to travel.
“It does not appear that there is a process in place yet for how to apply. We’ve been trying to get clarity from the embassy or consulate unsuccessfully. Both have consistent busy signals. Also both their sites are down. Our partners in Egypt have been in touch with the Minister of Tourism and Foreign Affairs. I believe there was an official meeting held today around this issue. Hopefully we will have a better understanding shortly. It will significantly impact tourism to Egypt if customers have to present themselves in person. Best outcome will be if Canadian travellers to Egypt can apply for a visa through the Egyptian visa e-portal.”
Pat Probert of the The Bob Family Travel Team at TravelOnly said that agency has planned an Egypt tour for two years, only to be caught off-guard by the new announcement. “We certainly were not expecting to be blindsided by the current situation going on with Egypt and Canada that has travel advisors and their trusted clients right in the crosshairs of this disagreement between the two countries,” he said. “We just want to take people to destinations they have never been to.”
Notably, Bob Family Travel has long planned a chartered Uniworld Sphinx itinerary to be escorted by Wendy and Shellie Sedore.
“When this sudden news hit, we did not even have all of the info to know whether the e-visa’s we received already for our clients would be valid or not as the entire group was not returning to Canada until after Oct. 1,” explained Wendy Sedore.
After repeated calls to the embassy, Probert says he was told clients will be able to enter Egypt “even though we will be returning after the new rules kick in.”
Probert also asked if they were going to update the situation soon. “Something hopefully will give as Egypt is an important destination for Canadians and this will affect future business moving forward when clients must mail their passports to Ottawa or visit in person to get a visa because clients just do not want to give up their passports and have them lost in the mail,” continued Probert, who was told by the embassy that it will take 10 to 14 business days from the time it receives passports before they are sent back “so this process could very likely take up to a month before someone has a visa to enter Egypt. Certainly, Egypt is a must-see bucket list trip and we hope these issues will get cleared up so we can send many more clients to Egypt in the very near future.”
Oakville, Ont.-based Travello agent Sheila Aue said requiring Canadians to have a visa before entering the country is “ridiculous, especially for Canadian travellers who are departing in the next month. The Egyptian embassy is swamped with calls and people are scrambling for answers on what to do. I would understand if some clients decide to delay their travel plans for a later date, to avoid the stress of possibly not getting their visas in time for their departure. Hopefully both the Canadian and Egypt governments are talking.”
Ethel Hansen Davey of Uniglobe Enterprise Travel in Toronto in turn said the new regulation creates “a crazy situation for those that have already booked but are not in the vicinity of offices to have the visa issued. It is another hurdle for travellers that they just don’t need right now.”
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