On February 26th, 19 people, mostly tourists, died in a fatal hot air balloon gas explosion near the Egyptian town of Luxor. Among the victims were tourists from Japan, China, France, Britain, and Hungary. The balloon was carrying 20 tourists when a cable got caught around a gas tube, and tragedy struck. The two survivors, the pilot and one of the tourists, survived the accident by jumping out of the basket before it hit the ground. The pilot is in the hospital to be treated for burns covering 70 percent of his body.
Authorities are not yet sure what led to the accident, but emerging accusations say that the blame lies in Egyptian authorities’ hands. Accusations spread that safety standards have declined due to recent political turmoil, and authorities have not done enough to ensure these accidents do not happen. Aviation officials deny the claim, stating that the balloon had been recently inspected, and implied that the pilot may have been to blame for jumping out of the basket. His colleagues are defending his actions. Until Egyptian authorities have discovered the exact cause of the accident, Ezzat Saad, governor of Luxor, mandated that there will be no further hot air balloon flights.
The balloon accident has been said to be the most extreme since ballooning began in Egypt circa 1989. The amount of fatalities along with the location of the accident, outside of one of Egypt’s top tourism sites, further injured the already suffering tourism industry. Tourism brought in more than a 10th of the Egyptian domestic product pre-revolution, and has been vastly declining since. The area of Luxor, where the crash occurred, was one of the only locations eft where tourists felt safe visiting. As a result, the hot air balloon crash has come as very bad news for Egypt.
Egypt’s tourism is crucial to its economy, and the past two years have been brutal. The hot air balloon incident is just one of many blows to the nation’s reliance on the vital tourism industry. The city of Luxor has been hit hard by the decline in tourism, and many citizens are worried it will only get worse after this accident. Authorities are invested in investigating this incident, and making sure it will not happen again, to ensure tourists feel safe to once again come to the area. Until the investigation is complete, they will not be able to say whether the error was maintenance or the pilot. According to Wael Ibrahim, head of tour guides in Luxor, the accident will not make anything substantially worse, because the unrest has made the industry all but hit rock bottom. “We’ve already been affected badly in Egypt,” he said. Can accidents of this nature make the economy worse?