5 million tourists bring in $4 bn during 2013: Egypt tourism minister

Dalia Farouk, Ahram Online, Friday 14 Jun 2013

Tourist numbers expected to reach 13 million by year's end, though planned 30 June protests threaten to drag industry 'back to square one', according to tourism minister


Egypt has received 5 million tourists, generating $4 billion in revenues since the start of the year, Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou has said.

Speaking last week at an Egyptian Tourism Journalists Association conference, the minister added that the number of visitors could reach 13 million by the end of the current year, which would bring the industry close to its pre-revolution level of 14.8 million tourists in 2010.

Egypt received 1.1 million tourists in April 2013, 5.2 percent more than the 1 million it received in the same period last year, according to data previously released by state statistics agency CAPMAS, which put the April 2010 at 1.2 million visitors.

The corresponding figures for May 2013 are yet to be released.

Revenues have not kept up with tourist numbers, however, as each tourist currently spends $70.3 per night, compared to $85 per night in 2010, according to the minister.

Many Egyptian tourism agencies and hotels dramatically cut prices to maintain occupancy levels in the wake of the 2011 revolution.

"Egypt is seeing larger numbers of domestic and foreign tourists, but this cannot be considered a full-fledged recovery until it translates into higher revenues," Elhamy El-Zayat, head of Egypt's Federation of Tourism Chambers (EFTC), told Ahram Online in May.

"Prices are significantly lower than they were in 2010, so the number of tourists isn't a correct gauge of the sector's current performance compared to 2010," he added.

However, Zaazou warned that the progress made thus far was fragile, and that the tourism industry would return to "square one" if protests scheduled for 30 June turn violent.

The Rebel campaign, which since May has been working to collect 15 million signatures in a vote of no confidence in President Morsi, plans to hold nationwide anti-government demonstrations throughout the last week of June, culminating in a march to the presidential palace on 30 June.

Though Rebel campaign organisers have stressed their commitment to peaceful protests, this has not assuaged public fears of the demonstrations taking a violent turn.

Zaazou, for his part, urged all of Egypt's political currents to express themselves through peaceful means, for the sake of the recovering industry.

Egypt's tourism sector has received several blows since the beginning of this year, the most serious of which was the highly-publicised hot air balloon accident in Luxor that left 19 tourists dead in late January.

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