Don't destroy beach tourism, Egypt's new leader told

Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:19am EDT
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By Shaimaa Fayed

AIN SUKHNA, Egypt (Reuters) - The beanbag chair decorated with pharaonic-era rulers that Waleed displays has found another use since passing business at this Egyptian Red Sea resort slowed to a trickle.

As five hours go by in the sticky afternoon heat without a customer, he stretches out on the bag himself and dozes off.

It's been 17 months since a popular uprising unseated President Hosni Mubarak and tipped Egypt's tourism industry into crisis.

Many in the industry fear it will never fully recover if the new Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, bans the skimpy swimwear and alcoholic drinks that are standard items on beach holidays for many foreign tourists.

"My business has shrunk by at least 70 percent in the past year," said Waleed, who asked to be identified by his first name only.

"Egypt lives on tourism. I think Mursi wants to Islamize tourism in the long run, but for the next few years he won't do anything because people need to eat."

Comments from Mursi, sworn in on June 30 after an interim period of army rule, and from Brotherhood officials suggest Waleed may be right.

The Brotherhood's 81-page "Nahda" (Renaissance) program does not mention beach tourism - which brings in the most tourist dollars by far - and officials in the movement have said they have other priorities for now.   Continued...

People throng Naama Bay street in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, south of Cairo in this July 12, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Files