The attacker’s motive was still under investigation, the Interior Ministry said.
“He was looking for foreigners and he didn’t want any Egyptians,” said one member of staff at the Zahabia Hotel.
Egypt is fighting Islamist insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula, where they mainly target security forces, but militants have also attacked tourist targets in the past, as well as Coptic Christians and churches.
Hurghada, some 400 km (250 miles) south of the capital Cairo, is one of Egypt’s most popular vacation spots on the Red Sea.
In January 2016, two assailants armed with a gun, a knife and a suicide belt landed on the beach of a hotel in Hurghada, and wounded two foreign tourists.
Egypt has been hoping that investments in airport security and the cheaper Egyptian pound will bring tourist visits to its beaches and ancient sites back up to levels seen before its 2011 uprising.
The industry, a crucial source of hard currency, has struggled since then with years of political turmoil and mass protests, as well as the fallout from the crash of a jet taking Russian holidaymakers home from the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in October 2015, in which 224 people died. Islamic State said it had brought the plane down with a bomb.
Friday’s attack came on a day that five policemen were killed by gunmen on a motorbike who ambushed their car just south of Cairo.