File photo of the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh (Reuters)
The number of tourists visiting Egypt fell in March for the fifth consecutive month, after the downing of a Russian plane last year drove tourists away.
Egypt saw 440,700 tourists visit in March, 47.2 percent lower than the same month last year when 834,600 tourists visited, state statistics body CAPMAS said on Monday.
The current decline in tourist numbers comes after a Russian passenger jet crashed in Sinai on 31 October last year, killing all 224 people on board, most of whom were Russian holidaymakers.
In January, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said that "after the plane crash, over the past three or four months, [Egypt] has lost around $1.2 billion or $1.3 billion in revenues.”
"For Egypt, the contraction in foreign currency inflows that would accompany a shrinking tourism industry would not only negatively impact growth, but would exacerbate the existing foreign currency shortage," said a World Bank report in January which had accordingly revised down its forecast for the country's economic growth by 0.7 percent in the fiscal year 2015/16.
Egypt has faced an acute foreign currency crunch, needed for imports of basic staples and factory input, as the political aftermath of the 2011 uprising drove away tourists and foreign investors, main sources of the hard currency.
According to CAPMAS, West Europeans top the visitor list, making up 37.2 percent of the total arriving tourists in March, followed by Middle Easterners with 28.2 percent and East Europeans with 12.8 percent.
The countries sending the most tourists in each region are Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine, CAPMAS said.
In March this year, tourists spent a total of 2.5 million nights in the country, versus 7.6 million in the same month a year prior.
Egypt accrued $6.1 billion in tourism revenue in 2015, down 15 percent from the year before, as the total number of tourists dropped in 2015 by 6 percent to 9.3 million and the total number of nights spent in the country declined by 14 percent.