Egypt Hopes Flaming Balloon Tourists Attract More Tourism
Luxor, Egypt (AP) – Following a dramatic and fatal ballooning accident on Tuesday, Egyptian tourism authorities are hoping the fiery debacle will generate the excitement necessary to bring more tourists to the country.
In Tuesday’s crash, a hot-air balloon carrying dozens of Asian and European tourists caught fire and rocketed out of control before exploding. Almost all the passengers, of whom only two escaped by jumping to safety, were incinerated. Their bodes will be identified only through DNA testing, if at all.
“We’re really hoping this reignites interest in our tourist attractions,” said Ahmad Ghasbamb, a spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism. “The Valley of the Kings is the perfect place to watch Western infidels and Eastern pagans suffer the flaming deaths they deserve,” he said at a press conference, referring to the area of the country where most of the famed ancient pyramids are located.
Egypt’s tourism industry has suffered in the wake of the civil uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak two years ago. Continued instability has discouraged tourists from visiting, a phenomenon that according to many Egyptian tourism officials echoes the lull that followed a series of Islamic terrorist attacks on tourists in the 1990’s. Tourism accounts for more than one-tenth of Egypt’s economy.
“We can leverage these competing interests to please all parties,” said Ghasbamb. “The Islamists” – swept into power after Mubarak’s ouster but facing a rising tide of dissatisfaction – “and foreign tourists can both find something beneficial in more such incidents. The foreigners will come because they want to see the pyramids and want to experience the adventure of dying in an inferno a thousand meters in the air. The Islamists will be happy because they can participate in, or at least witness, the hellfire visited upon the infidels.”
Ghasbamb sounded a note of caution, saying that it was not clear how long the industry will take to recover. It took years for the foreign visitors to return in numbers following the attacks of the 1990’s. But he expressed optimism that the numbers would begin to trend upward soon, citing statistics that Israeli tourists, despite serving as primary targets for Egyptian Islamist terrorists, continue to visit the country in significant numbers.
“The stupidity of the Westerner is an important resource for us,” explained Askeen Fawrett, a tour guide who arranges trips for several travel agencies. “We expected people to stay away for far longer than they did after various attacks, but the people who we thought would be most wary have shown no hesitation at all about spending their Passover vacations here year after year.” He also noted the irony of Jews returning to the land where their ancestors were enslaved for centuries, and contributing money to the economy of the land that exploited them during that time.
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