Egypt sees 20 percent rise in tourists this year despite insecurity

Thu Oct 18, 2012 6:32am EDT
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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt projects a rise of about 20 percent in tourist numbers this year, the tourism minister said on Wednesday, despite outbreaks of violence after last year's Arab Spring.

The uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak last February and political instability since then have stopped millions of potential visitors to Egypt's beach resorts and ancient sites.

Tourism accounted for more than a tenth of Egypt's gross domestic product before the 18-day revolt that was driven by widespread anger at poverty and high-levels of corruption. The country's large cities are still prey to unrest.

But Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou cited strong recent occupancy rates at hotels. About 8.8 million tourists visited Egypt in the first nine months of this year, he said at an industry event, and revenue was 6.9 billion.

"What I'm targeting is 11.5 million to 12 million tourists by the end of December. For sure over 11 million," Zaazou said. He said numbers should return to 2010 levels by the end of 2013 depending on the security situation.

Some 14.5 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, generating around 12.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($2.05 billion) in revenue, whereas last year 9.8 million tourists brought in 8.8 billion pounds, according to government figures.

The government has a long-term plan to draw 30 million tourists by 2020, generating industry revenue of $25 billion.

Clashes in Cairo between liberal opponents of newly elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi and his supporters following a demonstration injured more than 100 people last week. Another protest is planned on Friday.

In addition to security concerns, anxiety over the growing influence of Islamists following Mursi's election has fed tourism sector investors' fears over possible restrictions on alcohol sales and swimwear at popular resorts.   Continued...

A man rides his camel past the pyramids in Giza October 11, 2012. Egypt’s antiquities authorities announced the re-opening of the Khefren pyramid and six other tombs. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany