BERLIN Germany advised its citizens not to travel to the Red Sea tourist resorts of Egypt, toughening its previous travel advice but stopping short of a full travel warning that would mean tourists being evacuated.
The foreign ministry said on Friday it was now advising against travel to the country as a whole, and advised "urgently" against travel to Cairo, upper Egypt and the Nile delta.
Previously, Germany's travel warnings had not applied to the Red Sea resorts such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada that are popular with European tourists and lie far from Egypt's big cities.
At least 623 people died and thousands were wounded on Wednesday when police cleared out two protest camps in Cairo set up to denounce the military overthrow on July 3 of Egypt's first freely elected president, Islamist leader Mohamed Mursi. The country was braced for further confrontation on Friday.
"Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urges German citizens to take this travel advice very seriously," a foreign ministry spokesman said. The ministry said those in the tourist resorts should exercise increased caution.
Switzerland also advised against all travel to Egypt in an brief update on the foreign ministry's website. It too had previously excluded beach destinations from such warnings.
France has advised against travel to all of Egypt since the start of July, while Britain still advises against travel to all areas except the Red Sea resorts.
The updated advice from Germany will come as a further blow to Egypt's tourism industry, a major source of foreign currency and jobs that has been hit hard by more than two years of political turmoil.
Egypt is one of the top ten travel destinations for Germans, with 1.2 million travelling there last year, according to German travel association DRV. That represents just over 10 percent of international tourist arrivals to Egypt in 2012.
German tour operators Thomas Cook Germany, TUI Germany, DER Touristik and FTI announced on Thursday that customers would get the chance to rebook to other destinations free of charge.
Thomas Cook and TUI said they were assessing the updated advice before making any further decisions.
DER Touristik said on Friday, before the updated advice was issued, that bookings for winter package holidays to Egypt had dropped sharply since the start of July.
"Before then, winter bookings for our package operators were up 40 percent on the previous year," a spokeswoman told Reuters. "Now they are certainly not in positive territory," she said, adding that she didn't have exact numbers.
(Reporting by Christina Amann, Victoria Bryan and Stephen Brown; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)