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Sunday,  July 21, 2024 10:29 AM 

CATO shocked by “complexity” of Egypt visas, calls for flexible measures

CATO shocked by “complexity” of Egypt visas, calls for flexible measures
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) is expressing “shock” over the new travel restrictions that Canadian tourists must face when travelling to Egypt. 

Starting Oct. 1, 2023, Canadian passport holders will have to visit Egypt's embassy in Ottawa or consulate in Montreal, or go the snail mail route, to apply for a visa before they leave the country.

“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,” the association said Thursday (Sept. 7). “These new restrictions could also potentially decrease the interest of many Canadian travellers and discourage them from visiting Egypt.”

The policy update is noted on Global Affairs Canada's travel page, and it complicates a process that was once quite simple.

Previously, Egypt-bound travellers could obtain visas upon arrival at Cairo airport, or obtain an e-visa before departure through an online portal.

READ MORE: How to apply for an Egypt visa, according to the Egyptian Embassy in Ottawa

Under the new rules, those carrying an electronic visa on or after Oct 1, will be denied boarding and/or entry into Egypt as their e-visa will be considered void.

“Whether applying in person or by mail, these changes bring added unwanted complexity to the traveller,” CATO stated. “This is clearly prohibitive for anyone.”

The rule change, which has caused an uproar among travel advisors and tour operators, create barriers against selling Egypt to Canadian citizens, CATO went on to say, noting that its members have indicated an increased number of calls from worried travellers and travel agents due to these abrupt changes.

The Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) is expressing “shock” over the new travel restrictions that Canadian tourists must face when travelling to Egypt. (Spencer Davis/Unsplash)

CATO said 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.”

READ MORE: “A blow” to agents & operators: Tour ops, ACTA respond to Egypt visa debacle

The association added that it is urging 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.” It also asking for more lead time with the changes.

Meanwhile, rumours are swirling that e-visas for Egypt will return next week. However, this information is not confirmed. 

“We hope common sense will prevail"

“CATO is working hard to reach out to government officials and representatives at the Egyptian Embassy for a resolution to this situation that will benefit everyone impacted,” said Jean Hébert, executive director at CATO.

Earlier this week, David Green, managing director for G Adventures, which sells Egypt, said it’s “disappointing” to have received little warning of the new visa changes, “which do little to support Canadian travellers.”

“We hope common sense will prevail and at the very least the visa changes are delayed until a later date, allowing more notice for travellers and for efficient processes to be established,” Green said. “Failure to do so will lead to thousands of Canadian travellers cancelling their travel plans to Egypt.”

This week, G Adventures sent an employee to Egypt’s embassy in Ottawa to seek out official information about the new visa process, confirming that visa applications for Egypt can be completed both in person and by mail. (See details here).

One reason for the confusion is that travel advisors and tour operators have had a difficult time trying to reach Egypt’s Embassy and Consulate for details.

“I’ve been trying to call and email them. The phones are never answered, the mailboxes are full,” Jayne Mandic of Marlin Travel in Peterborough, ON, told PAX on Monday.

Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA, told PAX earlier this week that it is "extremely frustrating" that travel plans for Canadians are being disrupted by sudden visa processing changes for Egypt.

"It is important that governments understand the impact their decisions have on individuals and families," Paradis said Wednesday.

She confirmed that ACTA has reached out to both Canadian and Egyptian officials expressing the challenges of the decision on travellers and the Canadian and Egyptian travel industries.

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