x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

A tragedy at Luxor

The balloon tragedy has dealt a blow to Egypt's struggling tourism industry.

For decades, visitors to Luxor in Egypt have taken home and cherished memories of their dawn balloon flights over the rugged landscape and ancient tombs of the Valley of the Kings.

But yesterday morning one of those graceful hot-air balloons caught fire and exploded, killing 19 people from six countries. Beyond being a tragedy for the victims and their loved ones, the accident is also a body blow to Egypt's struggling tourism industry.

Balloon crashes at Luxor have been rare since safety reforms were imposed on the sector in 2009, but the political tumult of the last two years has slashed tourism revenue, which normally accounts for at least 10 per cent of GDP, by a quarter or more.

However, with proper management - including all appropriate safety measures for balloons - tourism is sure to bounce back; Egypt's story is after all central to the history of all mankind. Just this week scholarly researchers from Belgium discovered in Luxor the ruins of a 3,200-year-old pyramid, previously unknown, of a vizier to the pharaoh Ramses II. Egypt's treasures, and the world's interest in them, will endure.