by Marwa Yahya
CAIRO, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Egypt's hotel industry is trying a new beginning as the government eases the anti-coronavirus restriction measures gradually.
So far more than 70 hotels have received the health safety certificate required for reoperation after they have followed the health guidelines laid out by the Egyptian government and the World Health Organisation (WHO), Egypt's tourism and antiquities ministry said.
The hotels that received the permission are located in five provinces: the Red Sea, South Sinai, Alexandria, Suez and Cairo, the ministry said in a statement.
"The hotels are working with a maximum capacity of 25 percent as an experimental opening until the end of May, then they are allowed to accommodate guests at a 50-percent capacity starting early June," Alla Aaqel, chairman of the Red Sea Hotels Chamber, told Xinhua.
He added 83 out of 252 hotels in the Red Sea province have applied to get the health certificate, but only 41 hotels have met the required conditions.
Noting that privately-owned boats and yachts are allowed for operation, Aaqel said that public beaches will be completely closed, but the hotels will operate their shores amid strict precautionary measures.
However, boat owners will be subject to stripping their license for several months and fined in case of violating the precautionary measures.
He reiterated that Safari trips and diving will be suspended during the Eid al-Fitr holiday that will end on May 29.
"The move won't compensate the losses caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 for the tourism sector that has generated record-high revenues of 13 billion U.S. dollars in 2019," said Aaqel.
Reopening hotels will test the preparedness of the tourism industry for operating normally, he explained, adding that the domestic tourism is the "life jacket" for the hotel industry that employs a large number of workers.
By the end of April, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, in cooperation with the Chamber of Hotel, announced measures needed for safe operation, including preventive measures in hotels upon receiving guests, internal supervision on laundry, food, and beverages, swimming pools, beaches, and gyms.
The measures also include housing, occupancy rate, providing awareness signs, and services to ensure a safe working environment to prevent the spread of the virus.
In Qena province, south of the capital, Basma, a four-star hotel restarted operation on May 20.
"The hotel has installed sterilization gates, and designated a complete floor for quarantine with residential doctors," said Mokhlis Malak, owner of the hotel.
He added the hotel's restaurant has abided by the social distance measures and put only two persons on a table, with two meters between every two tables.
Meanwhile, Wael Talaat, a 49-year-old engineer, who is accommodated with his family in Hilton Hurghada Plaza Hotel, hailed the reopening of hotels as a kind of relief for the people kept at home for nearly two months.
"I enjoy the beach activities with my family during the feast holiday," said Talaat, adding that the hotel has continuously sterilized the personal tools of everyone.
Egypt has decided to impose stricter measures during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, including extending its curfew hours and suspending public transportation to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
According to Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, as of mid-June the state will announce a gradual resumption of several activities, including sporting clubs and youth centers, and gradual reopening of places of worship.
The government will also consider the possibility of a gradual return of in-house dining at restaurants with strict measures later in June, Madbouly said.
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 764 in Egypt based on the health ministry's last update on Sunday. Enditem