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Tourism rebound expected once safety guaranteed
Published in Daily News Egypt on 21 - 02 - 2011

CAIRO: With countries banning travel to Egypt unless absolutely necessary and over one million tourists and foreigners fleeing the country, the tourism industry has taken a severe hit in the past weeks.
According to the state statistics agency CAPMAS, around 210,000 tourists left the country during the last week of January, equaling losses of around $178 million. A further estimated loss of $825 million of revenue was incurred due to cancellations for February.
The fleeing of tourists alone cost the country an estimated $1 billion, according to CAPMAS. Total losses during the revolution are estimated at LE 10 billion ($1.7 billion), more than half of which is associated with tourism.
The tourism industry in Egypt contributes a significant amount to the economy by employing about 12 percent of the workforce.
“Tourism will likely rebound once safety in Egypt is guaranteed, although we expect a relatively quick recovery in inbound tourism to the Red Sea resorts,” Beltone Financial said in a note.
While the country fared better off than most during the global economic crisis a couple years back, the current turmoil and ongoing protests are essentially destabilizing the economy and turning away visitors for the time being.
Uncertainty is high among investors and travelers as the government is in a transitional phase and the tourism ministry was without a minister until just yesterday when Mounir Fakry Abdel Nour was appointed to the position.
When contacted by Daily News Egypt regarding plans to boost the tourism industry, Abdel Nour said he could not comment because he's not "officially" the minister.
“Many people are suffering in the industry at the moment; hotels, resorts and everyone,” said Alaadin Khalifa, executive member of the World Federation of Tourist Guides Associations.
“We are having definite losses, but it's the price we have to pay to achieve what we want: democracy.”
But Khalifa is optimistic and believes the country and industry can recover.
Egypt showed positive growth over the past years with a 7.2 percent growth in 2008 and 4.7 percent in 2009.
Former tourism minister Zoheir Garannah had said that there was an 18 percent growth of tourists in 2010 with an estimated 14 million tourist arrivals in the year as of October 2010.
The amount of repeat customers is estimated at about 20 percent.
The research conducted by Euromonitor International prior to the uprising predicted a growth of about 9 percent with approximately 20 million total arrivals by 2015.
“I believe this is just very temporary, tourists will come back to Egypt,” said Khalifa.
“It has happened before in other various countries going through the same thing and has always recovered,” he added.
Khalifa explained that a positive point for the country is the lack of internal disturbances, such as ethnic wars, that have hurt other countries trying to attract people back.
When asked if the government should step in to help the industry, Khalifa did not think so, but that they can support freedom which will in turn help tourism as well as other sectors.
“I think they should start a campaign or initiative really advertising the new Egypt with less corruption and working towards democracy.”
He believes a big issue right now is the travel bans that have been placed on Egypt from various other countries, but are slowly being lifted.
“Countries in Europe, Canada, Australia and a few others have lifted their bans just recently, but other countries like the United States have yet to do so,” Khalifa says.
“Once the bans are lifted and people gain a sense of security, they will come back.”
He noted that people are already coming back to visit with 150 tourists visiting from Holland going to Luxor last week and 500 from the United Kingdom are set to visit next week.
“I think the tourism industry jumpstarting again will be the wheel that moves the economy ahead,” he added.
According to a Euromoney International report, European tour operator TUI said that unrest in both Egypt and Tunisia would amount to £30 million in losses.
“Tourism receipts account for almost a quarter of foreign exchange earnings, while one in seven Egyptians depends on the industry for their livelihood. The majority of visitors are from Europe and the Middle East. The government aimed to develop several large integrated resorts along the Rea Sea and the Mediterranean, but plans have been delayed as foreign investors hesitate,” according to the report.
“Airlines are canceling their flights to Egypt or adjusting their flight times, to adhere to night-time curfews while travel operators are monitoring the situation very closely. Many neighboring countries cancelled traveling opportunities amid fears that the events may spread on their territory as well.”

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