Egypt expects big rise in 2012 tourist numbers

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A view of the Red Sea beach resort of Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt. Photo –

Egyptian tourism minister said on Tuesday he expected more than 12 million tourists to arrive in the country by the end of 2012, a 23% rise over the previous year, denying suggestions that the election of a new Islamist president would stifle the industry.

Egypt has been hit by a decline in tourist numbers and many investors are deserting the country in the wake of the popular uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak 17 months ago.

Many tourism observers fear imposing of Islamic strictures on the sector would make the recovery slow if President Mohamed Mursi imposes a ban on skimpy swim wear and alcohol that are part of a beach holiday for many foreign tourists.

The Brotherhood has not indicated it would do either.

Tourism Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour said at a press conference in Cairo that Egypt received 5,242,652 tourists during the first six months of 2012, a 27% rise on the same period of 2011, noting a significant rise in tourist arrivals from Russia, Poland and Germany.

“I expect that the second half of the year will witness great recovery in tourism,” Abdel Nour said, citing among other factors new initiatives by the ministry to boost ecotourism.

“I expect that Egypt will be able, without much effort, to receive more than 12 million tourists by the end of the year,” he told the news conference.

Abdel Nour said he did not expect that any political leader would impose policies that could harm the country’s vital tourism industry.

“No political force, political party, president or government working in a democratic, responsible framework, and therefore accountable to public opinion … could follow policies that harm tourism in Egypt,” he said.

“Four million people work in tourism, while more than 14 million are impacted by it indirectly,” he added, saying Egypt had the potential to achieve, by 2017, tourism revenues of $25 billion, double the figure it earned in 2010, pre-uprising.

Tourism, one of Egypt’s top foreign currency earners, constitutes 11% of gross domestic product (GDP).

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