6mn tourists visit Egypt in 2013, but travel warnings slow recovery

Dalia Farouk, Ahram Online, Monday 29 Jul 2013

Despite 9.6% rise from same period in 2012, Western travel warnings imposed since 30 June unrest threaten tourism comeback

Hisham Zazou
Egypt's minister of tourism, Hisham Zazou (Photo: AP)

Egypt received around 5.7 million tourists in the first six months of 2013, generating some $4.4 billion, said tourism minister Hisham Zaazou.

Despite the 9.6 percent rise compared to the same period in 2012, revenues in the first half of 2013 were lower than expected due to low tourist spending, Zaazou added during his Sunday meeting with Egypt's Tourism Journalists Association.

According to Zaazou, tourists currently spend around $67 per day on average. In 2010, the most prosperous year for Egypt tourism when there were some 14.7 million tourists generating $12.5 billion in revenue, each tourist spent an average of $85 a day.

Zaazou, who was appointed tourism minister in August 2012 and continues to hold the post within the interim government, stated that he has revised his prediction that Egypt would receive 13.8 million tourists by the end of 2013.

Zaazou was forced to lower his projections after several nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada issued travel warnings to their nationals visiting Egypt amid ongoing protests and civil unrest in the country.

Italy also issued a travel warning early in July, but according to Zaazou the Italian ambassador to Egypt has declared South Sinai, the Red Sea and Egypt's North Coast now safe for Italian tourists. 

On Monday, Cairo airport officials said seven flights to Egypt had been cancelled, with some flights arriving with less than 50 percent occupancy, following weekend clashes in Egypt that killed more than 80 people.

Passengers from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Italy, as well as Syria and Lebanon, were relocated onto other planes on Monday due to low seat occupancy.

Officials say that more than 55 percent of seats on flights to Cairo have been empty over the past three days. They spoke anonymously as they did not have authorisation to speak with the media. 

The minister added that he does not wish to meet with US ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson to discuss lifting travel warnings because of the ambassador's unclear stance on Egypt's 30 June uprising.

On Thursday, the Obama administration told lawmakers that it would not designate Egypt's government overthrow a 'coup,' allowing the US to continue to provide $1.5 billion in annual military and economic aid to the Arab world's most populous country. 

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