As international security consultants assisting companies and other organizations with all types of security consulting, we are frequently called up on to assess the security risks for business travelers to and from countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Here’s an analysis of recent unfortunate events, with an eye to what these show vis-a-vis the need for a robust security audit of any international travel, meetings, or other form of corporate gathering that may involve employees or executives.
Attacks on Tourists
An assailant wielding a knife attacked six tourists visiting the popular Egyptian beachfront resort of Hurghada recently. Two German nationals were killed, with a further two Czech and two Armenian nationals injured. Although the exact motivation for the attack is still uncertain, hotel staff on site noted that the assailant ignored Egyptians present at the scene and seemed intent on seeking out individuals of Western appearance. Local security was successful in restraining the man responsible, and Egyptian police are currently questioning him in order to identify the exact cause for his behavior.
Unfortunate Security Trends in North Africa
The attack mirrors similar incidents which have plagued the North African tourist trade in recent years. Three foreign tourists were stabbed at the same resort in January 2016 by individuals suspected to be linked to the Islamic State militant group, while 224 people were killed on board a Russian passenger plane departing from the popular tourist destination of Sharm el-Sheikh in October 2015 after an explosive device was detonated shortly after take-off.
Foreign nationals visiting North Africa present an appealing target for militant groups. Not only do attacks on tourists guarantee international media coverage, but they also damage local economies within the area – which often rely upon a steady flow of visitors to remain profitable. The hope for militant groups such as IS is that by damaging the economic infrastructure of countries like Egypt and Tunisia, they can increase local poverty and generate greater support for radical Islamism out of economic desperation.
Whether or not such tactics have increased radicalization within North Africa is debatable. However attacks on Westerners in North Africa have unarguably damaged the regions tourism revenue. Flights from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh have remained suspended since Autumn 2015, and overall tourism numbers have declined sharply in recent years. Where Egypt could boast of close to 15 million visitors and $12.5bn of revenue from tourism in 2011, it now receives less than a third of the number of visitors and under $6bn in revenue from the same industry. The collapse of Egyptian tourism has prompted a mass security drive by the national government, which has to date invested over $35m in a security revitalization program across the country. Restoration of international faith in Egyptian security is clearly an economic imperative, however this latest attack will most likely only further damage the confidence of Western tourists, on whose investment Egypt desperately relies.
Security Consulting on Middle-East and North Africa Travel by Employees and Executives
If you, or your organization, are considering travel to or from countries of the Middle East, our security consultants can help. We can help audit your company’s or organization’s security protocols, and even assist with international meeting security. This, in combination with FoneTrac and/or GlobalSecur, means that we can provide a full suite of security consulting services for your potential (or actual) Mideast travels. Reach out to us today for a consultation.
Photo credit: Rod Waddington via Foter.com / CC BY-SA