Egypt announces measures to bolster tourism

Sat Jan 3, 2009 10:41am EST
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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will exempt hotels from paying contributions to the country's tourism promotion authority and will cut fees paid by charter flights to help its tourism industry cope with the global financial crisis.

"The minister (of tourism Zoheir Garrana) has agreed to exempt hotel establishments from tourism promotion fees which the ministry collects from the hotels to lessen their burdens during the financial crisis," state news agency MENA quoted Assistant Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou as saying.

Egypt's tourism industry, the country's top hard currency earner, has started to feel the pinch of the global financial crisis, with hotel bookings down 30 percent in January 2009 compared to the same month in 2008.

MENA said the ministry of tourism would also set up a working group to deal with the fallout of the crisis, with measures being reviewed and changed every three months.

Zaazou added Egypt's aviation minister had agreed to reduce landing and take-off fees, as well as ground handling fees for charter flights, and waive them entirely for charter flights that make 11 trips to designated destinations in the span of three months.

The ministry would also change its broadcast advertisement campaigns to focus on promoting Egypt as an affordable holiday destination.

The Egyptian Central Bank said in December revenue from tourism in the first quarter of the 2008/09 fiscal year, which started in July, rose 15.2 percent to some $3.3 billion.

Reham El-Desouki, a senior economist at investment bank Beltone Financial, said tourism revenue for the entire fiscal year could stay unchanged at $10.6 billion.

Tourism represents 6.6 percent of Egypt's gross domestic product and is the Arab country's main hard currency earner, followed by worker remittances at $8.4 billion, Desouki said.

(Writing by Aziz El-Kaissouni; editing by Chris Pizzey)