Islam and tourism in the Middle East : the case of Egypt
In this study the use of tourism as a means of promoting development in Islamic countries in the Middle East is discussed. In tourism generally the image of a host country and its people is an important factor in the choice of a destination. In the case of Islamic countries image is of especial importance because of the cultural differences between them and Western countries and because of Western perceptions of the resurgence of Islam. The present Western image of Egypt is considered. An image may be formed in two ways. It may be organic or it may be induced. In the case of Egypt the organic image is found to be particularly relevant because of the kinds of influences to which potential tourists are likely to have been exposed in a Western culture in which Orientalist influences may have induced negative stereotypes of Islam and Muslims. A distorted organic image attributable to Orientalism may then have been perpetuated and emphasised by the induced image resulting from the way in which the destination image is promoted by the tourism industry. In its attempts to manipulate the potential tourist the industry may knowingly or unknowingly have created a false image. A misconceived advertising approach may give rise to disappointment in tourists who find that their expectations are not realised and may thereby damage the image of the country as a tourist destination. The use of tourism to promote economic growth in any developing country may lead to a divergence of opinions between the economists and planners, for whom the foremost consideration is the contribution which the tourist industry can make to the economy, and the mass of ordinary people who see tourism as being primarily a foreigners' industry which has little relevance to their lives. If they perceive that tourists have an unfavourable image of them, that can give rise to resentment. The role of Islamist extremism in the decline of the tourism industry in Egypt is explored. This involves a consideration of the effect of the rise in the Middle East in recent years of radical Islamism, with a growing number of people in favour of the creation of an Islamic state and the restoration of Islamic law. Although only a small minority may be prepared to use violent means to achieve their aims, extremist violence has greatly reduced the number of tourists willing to take what they believe to be the high risk of a visit to Egypt. A general review of tourism in Egypt sets out the present state of the industry; explains how certain parts of it are developing, and explores the possibility of the development of an Islamic heritage product, which would supplement the Pharaonic product and which might result in tourism becoming more acceptable to the Islamist element among the Egyptian people. Finally, an examination of the country's potential markets and products highlights those which it is hoped will attract greater numbers of tourists to Egypt.