Egypt tourism could fully recover in 2015: minister

Mon Sep 15, 2014 6:32am EDT
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By Michael Georgy

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's tourism industry, battered by three years of political upheaval, violence and street protests, could fully recover by the end of next year if regional turmoil does not spread to the Arab world's biggest country, the tourism minister said.

While Egypt is by no means wholly stable, Hisham Zaazou said in an interview with Reuters late on Sunday that he hoped tourist numbers would rise by up to 10 percent this year, and recover to pre-uprising levels of 14.7 million visitors in 2015.

"If the relative stability that exists now continues I imagine there will be a (full) recovery," Zaazou said.

Sea resorts and ancient sites are the backbone of the Egyptian tourism industry -- a pillar of the whole economy -- and have mostly escaped attack by militants, but Zaazou said he would also promote desert safaris, trekking and spa tourism.

"A prerequisite is stability and this is happening," he said.

Once peaking at $12.5 billion a year, tourism revenues were less than half that in 2013 as upheaval in the run up to the army's ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi put off foreign visitors.

More than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, dropping to 9.8 million in 2011. Visitors picked up in 2012 to 11.5 million but shrank to 9.5 million last year.

Tourist revenue in the first half of 2014 was $3 billion, down 25 percent from a year earlier, the government said in August. Government figures had shown tourism contributed 11.3 percent of GDP and 14.4 percent of foreign currency revenues.   Continued...

A worker walks near his camel as he waits for tourists at the Giza pyramids area, south of Cairo, February 20, 2014.  REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih