Beach resorts to stay in Islamist-led Egypt - minister

Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:53am EDT
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By Tom Perry

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian beach tourism is here to stay, the tourism minister in the Islamist-led administration said on Tuesday, saying any Islamic investment in the sector would complement but not replace resorts that are part of an industry vital to Egypt.

Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou is tasked with reviving an industry that accounted for 10 percent of economic activity before an uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak 19 months ago, sending both investors and tourists packing.

Questions have swirled around the future of the industry, as Islamist groups outlawed under Mubarak moved to the heart of public life, culminating in the Muslim Brotherhood's victory in the first real Egyptian presidential election earlier this year.

Many Islamists object to women wearing bikinis or other revealing swimwear on public beaches and oppose the sale of alcohol, items that for many Western and other visitors are part of a seaside holiday.

Brotherhood officials have typically sidestepped questions on the future of beach resorts that include Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea, often dismissing the topic as marginal and saying there are more important things to worry about.

Asked about the future of such resorts, Zaazou -- a senior tourism ministry official before taking his new post in the cabinet appointed in August - gave an unequivocal answer.

"It will not be changed. Nothing will affect beach tourism. We are building on, increasing even, the capacities and the services rendered for our clients coming to our beaches," he told Reuters.

Though Egypt is renowned for pharaonic antiquities, its Red Sea beaches in particular draw many Western and other tourists.   Continued...