Minister and labour rally against Islamist threat to Egyptian tourism

Ahram Online, Dalia Farouk, Sherif Tarek, Saturday 10 Dec 2011

Employees in the hospitality industry voice concerns over the future of tourism in Egypt after Islamists take a clear lead in the first round of parliamentary elections; minister of tourism slams Islamists' shortsightedness

10.5 million tourists expected to visit Egypt in 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

Minister of Tourism Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour joined around 1,000 employees in the sector of tourism at Giza’s Al-Remayah Square on Friday to call on the newly-appointed government of Kamal El-Ganzouri to breathe life into the industry.
The rally was organised by the Tourism Supporters Coalition under the name of the “Friday of Tourism.” The Union of Tour Guides and the Federation of Touristic Chambers also supported the demonstration.

The demonstration was organised after Islamist political forces had secured the lion’s share of votes in the ongoing parliamentary elections’ first round, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and Salafist Al-Nour Party who received 40 per cent and 25 per cent of the votes, respectively.

The Islamists’ early lead in the elections prompted fears over possible introduction of new laws and restrictions that would take a toll on the already damaged tourism industry, such as a dress code for tourists or the destruction of some monuments, as some Islamist hardliners reportedly suggested.

“The Islamists in Egypt should apply the model of the Tunisian [Islamist] Nahda Party, who did not set any restrictions on tourism,” said Ehab Mousa, head of the Tourism Supporters Coalition.

Minister of Tourism Abdel-Nour highlighted to the protesters: “The tourism sector finances some 20 million Egyptian families and pumps billions into the public treasury.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with Alhurra TV,  Abdel Nour , a former leader of the liberal Wafd Party, said Islamists only see in tourism 'swimming suits and alcoholic beverages' and ignore other aspects of the industry.

Abdel Nour hit back at Islamic hardliners saying that “rejection of God’s bless, [such as Egypt’s] unique location, a shining sun and warm [sea] water, is tantamount to atheism.”

Egypt’s tourism has been abysmally affected by the frequently recurrent demonstrations and protests that swept the country in the aftermath of the January 25 Revolution.
In 2010, Egypt received 14.8 million tourists as the industry generated 12.5 per cent of Egypt’s GDP.

Four million Egyptians work in the sector of tourism which generated $12.5 billion to the economy in 2010.

“I don’t think any one resposnsible could disregard these realities,” Abdel Nour stated.

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