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Egypt hungry for tourists

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Egypt hungry for tourists
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Tourism in Egypt is suffering from insecurity, two years after the Arab Spring revolution here. These days, there are sometimes more rent-a-camel owners around than customers. At the only original Wonder of the Ancient World that still stands, the Great Pyramid of Giza, business is hurting.

Tourism brings in around 10 percent of the country’s income, and accounts for 12 percent of Egyptian employment.

The year before the Arab Spring uprisings, 2010, it rang up 9.5 billion euros, with around 15 million tourists. The revolution early in 2011 would see a 30 percent dive in receipts, although last year saw a 16 percent recovery. The Islamic government forecast for 2020 is double the number of tourists: 30 million.

But that will depend on political stability. With sectarian strife, labour demonstrations and the common phenomenon of ‘baltagiya’ organised bullying squads, the Minister of Tourism Hisham Zazou is said to have called for broad political support to ensure the protection and sustainability of tourism.

A boatsman who earned a living from taking tourists along the Nile, said that tourism structures used to approach full capacity in Hurghada, Sharm el-Sheikh, Luxor, Cairo and Aswan, but that now they are struggling: “The country is living in a disaster.”

Several countries’ authorities advise against travel in some parts of Egypt, warning of terrorist and criminal threats to tourists.

A Norwegian on an organised excursion in Cairo said: “We were scared about the political situation, but we trust the guide, and that’s why we are here, and we feel very good.”

An Egyptian web page suggests travellers consult advice from UK, US and Canadian government sources, and points out that conventional holiday insurance does not cover dangers such as riots.

Our correspondent in Egypt said: “Before the Egyptian revolution, places like this were filled with Arab and foreign tourists, but today we see beautiful places empty, where hospitality entrepreneurs are hoping for a revival after being kept in the shade by political and security uncertainty.”