Egypt's Nile cruises docked, awaiting tourism recovery

Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:09am EDT
 
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By Dina Zayed

ASWAN, Egypt (Reuters) - The newly launched Al-Hambra cruise ship sailed only twice on the Nile before President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February and has been docked since then on the banks of the river, its plush fittings gathering dust awaiting the return of tourists.

Aswan, the site of majestic pharaonic ruins and one of the most famous stops on Egypt's Nile cruises, has few of the tourists who normally throng its tree-lined river banks. Instead, dozens of ships are moored waiting for customers.

Of the more than 300 cruise liners usually touring this section of the world's longest river, part of a tourist industry that is a major source of revenue in Egypt, not more than 40 are still setting sail, operators say.

"I'm keeping the boat open just to pay salaries, but not to make profit because that's not going to happen anytime soon," Albert Zakaria, manager of one of the operating cruises, Beau Soleil, moored behind the deserted ship, told Reuters.

Like many, Zakaria accepts he has to pay the bills and salaries even without revenues, so as to be ready once tourists return. He is not sure when that will be.

Tourist numbers have plummeted, dealing a blow to the millions of Egyptians whose livelihoods depend on the 14 million or more visitors who once came to Egypt annually, providing one in eight jobs in a country beset by high unemployment.

The number of tourists visiting Egypt dropped by more than a third in the second quarter of 2011 compared to last year. Some 2.2 million people visited Egypt in the second quarter of this year, down from 3.5 million in the same period in 2010.

In Aswan, in the far south of the country, high season doesn't usually start until fall when the weather is cooler.   Continued...

 
<p>A boat cruises on the Nile River during a massive sandstorm in Cairo April 17, 2007. REUTERS/Nasser Nuri</p>