Khan El-Khalili in Cairo: Egypt's tourism industry was badly affected by the political turmoil (Photo: AP)
Mediterranean states opened a conference Monday on the future of tourism in the region, in a bid to claw back market share lost due to the Arab Spring uprisings and the European debt crisis.
"Besides the economic crisis in the origin countries, the ongoing political changes in North African and Middle East destinations have negative repercussions on the sector," said the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Tunisian government, which organised the two-day meeting.
"The aim is to preserve the position of the Mediterranean zone as the top global destination in terms of international arrivals," Frederic Pierret, executive director of the UNWTO, told the meeting attended by 400 people from 40 countries, including Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Turkey.
Egypt saw tourism plunge a third in 2011 in the aftermath of its January uprising. The country saw 10.2 million tourists, 32 per cent less than in 2010, while tourism revenue dropped to $9 billion.
Host country Tunisia, where a popular uprising led to the ousting of strongman Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, saw its tourism receipts plunge by a third in 2011.
Tourism is a key sector for Tunisia, making up 7 percent of its output and directly employing 400,000 people.
Its prime minister Hamadi Jebali stressed during the conference that revolution in his country has turned it into a "jungle", and tourism minister Elyes Fakhfakh said Tunisia remains "an open country."
The tourism minister also suggested creating a Mediterranean label under which travel opportunities in the region could be jointly marketed abroad.