This story was updated on Wednesday, September 6 at 12:46 p.m. EST
G Adventures has issued a statement in response to Egypt’s confusing new visa requirement that is set to take effect this fall.
As PAX reported on Tuesday (Sept. 5), Canadian passport holders, starting Oct. 1, 2023, will have to visit Egypt's embassy in Ottawa or consulate in Montreal to apply for a visa before they leave the country, according to Global Affairs Canada's travel page.
(Previously, travellers could obtain visas upon arrival at Cairo airport, or obtain an e-visa before departure through an online portal).
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, Ottawa says.
Based on feedback from travel advisors and tour operators, the new rules lack official instructions and details, and appear to have been implemented without any heads up.
In a statement to PAX on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 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.”
“This is a blow to both Canadian travel agents trying to support their clients and operators like G Adventures that send thousands of travellers to Egypt each year,” Green said. “Other than the announcement that was made, there have been no details provided around the process to obtain visas. It has also proven impossible to reach the embassy for clarification on the new process.”
"The phones are never answered"
One travel advisor PAX spoke to, Jayne Mandic of Marlin Travel in Peterborough, ON, shared her struggle in trying to obtain information about the new policy.
Mandic has clients travelling to Egypt in just over a month, and she isn’t entirely sure how to proceed because she can’t reach anyone at the Egyptian embassy or consulate.
“I’ve been trying to call and email them. The phones are never answered, the mailboxes are full,” Mandic said.
Mandic did made some headway on the Egyptian consulate’s website, where she was able to connect to an online chat function and type questions to a representative, who told her that visa applications must be done in person.
But even that has left Mandic skeptical. “I don’t know who I was chatting with,” she said.
Mandic said the worst-case scenario for her clients, who live in Peterborough, would be for them to travel to Ottawa or Montreal and apply for the visa in person.
But even that, as of now, offers no guarantee. The Egyptian consulate in Montreal, for example, only operates for a few hours in the morning. The embassy in Ottawa also has limited hours in the morning and afternoon.
“You can’t call to see if you need to make an appointment. You could show up, but still, nothing could happen,” Mandic said. “I understand that situations change, but I feel there should be some official information on what the new procedure is.”
There’s also the question of whether Egypt’s offices have enough staff to handle a sudden spike in visa requests.
“How long is it going to take?” Mandic asks.
The situation may be inconvenient for clients in Ontario who live three, four (or more) hours away from Ottawa or Montreal.
But what do Egypt-bound travellers who live in the rest of Canada do?
“I feel very sorry for people who live out West,” Mandic said. “I’m not sure if travel insurance would cover people for cancellations if they can’t get a visa.”
Global Affairs Canada responded to PAX’s request for clarification and only regurgitated what has already been posted on the Government of Canada’s website.
PAX has also contacted the Egyptian embassy in Ottawa and the consulate in Montreal with questions but has not yet heard back.
“I’ve been to Egypt, and I love Egypt,” Mandic said. “I sell a lot of it, and we’ve always been able to get a visa on arrival. It was always super easy.”
“We hope common sense will prevail”
G Adventures told PAX that it received “no formal confirmation” that Egypt’s visa rules were changing.
The tour operator says it is in the process of seeking official confirmation from Egyptian authorities in Canada, and has notified travellers departing in September that they will require an e-visa for entry.
“We will keep travellers updated as and when we have more concrete information to share,” the company said.
David Green went on to say that an online application form “should be the minimum expectation,” which doesn’t appear to be available beyond September.
“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.”
Green is urging members of CATO and ACTA to raise this issue with the government, “as this new visa rule needs to be reversed or, at the very least, delayed.”
"Still a lot of confusion"
Goway Travel's Moira Smith, vice-president, Africa and Asia, told PAX on Wednesday that there is "still a lot of confusion" surrounded Egypt's new visa process.
"We’ve been trying to get clarity from the Embassy or Consulate unsuccessfully," Smith wrote PAX in an email. "Both have consistent busy signals. Also both their sites are down."
She said Goway's partners in Egypt have been in touch with the Minister of Tourism and Foreign Affairs.
"I believe there is an official meeting being held today around this issue," she said. "Hopefully we will have a better understanding tomorrow. It will significantly impact tourism to Egypt if customers have to present themselves in person. Best outcome will be if Canadian travellers to Egypt can apply for a visa through the Egyptian visa e-portal."
Steve Born, chief marketing officer for the Globus family of brands, said his understanding of the issue is that Canadian travellers must visit Egypt’s embassy or consulate office in Canada in order to apply for the visa.
"This change, unfortunately, means that we are not able to assist in obtaining a visa upon arrival into Egypt," Born told PAX. "We are therefore advising our Canadian guests to contact the nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate as soon as possible to make visa accommodations for upcoming trips."
He said Globus has departures to Egypt after the October 1 date. "For those Avalon, Globus or Cosmos guests that are not able to obtain this visa before travel, we are allowing them to change dates without penalty to provide more time," Born said.
"We hope a more convenient option for Canadian travellers going to Egypt is available soon."
Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA, said 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 told PAX on 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.
Travel warning raised
According to a CBC News story, an email from the Egyptian embassy in Ottawa outlining the new visa application process for Egyptian nationals was sent Monday.
The change cited a "principle of reciprocity" and claimed the new rule is a response to Canadian measures that deny visas to Egyptian citizens, the report says.
It claims those measures are "offensive in nature to the dignity of the Egyptian state."
Canadian government raised its travel warning for Egypt on Aug. 31, advising Canadians to "exercise a high degree of caution," with regional travel advisories, due to the unpredictable security situation in the destination and the threat of terrorism.
The warning specifies a high degree of risk in Egypt's North Sinai and Western Sahara regions.
This is a developing story.