The excavation at Marsa Alam, in contravention of Egyptian regulations, was carried out by a hotelier who wants to improve sea access for his guests.

Critics fear that other hoteliers may follow suit, on the basis that any fines which could be imposed by the authorities will simply be absorbed through tweaked business costings and charges.

Nigel Jarvis, a respected diver who has worked in the Red Sea scuba business for more than a decade, said: We have heard from recent visitors to the Kahramana Hotel that the owner has destroyed some 7000sq m of the shoreline reef, using large construction-site diggers and trucks.

The destruction was halted by the concerted efforts of the Egyptian Marine Park Rangers and the situation is being investigated by the Egyptian authorities.

We understand that the Governor of the Red Sea, His Excellency General Saad Abou Rida, who has been a major champion for Red Sea conservation projects in the recent past, is looking to seriously reprimand the owner.

Observers will follow with interest the degree to which the hotel owner is punished. The Egyptian authorities have to deal with the investors over this issue, said Jarvis. They can be assisted by knowing how much concern there is in the diving and environmental communities.

PADIs influential Project AWARE conservation arm has backed Jarviss comments. Todays travellers choose their destinations not only for their amenities or price but also the operators commitment to environmental protection...As with many PADI dive centres/resorts, Project AWARE is very concerned about any negative impact the development plans may have, it said.

Project AWAREs Go ECO: Explore, Conserve, Observe guidelines advise diving tourists on how to travel responsibly and persuade operators to implement best business practices. It has also produced guidelines for operators - along with a carrot, the Project AWARE Environmental Achievement Award.

Project AWARE has written a letter of concern to the Egyptian authorities regarding the Kahramana excavation. It urges those with something to say on the matter to email the Governor of the Red Sea, His Excellency General Saad Abou Rida, at info@redsea.gov.eg; or Mr Elkhadem Ahmed, responsible for tourism development, at chairman@egypttreasures.gov.eg