Egypt tourism sector pays revolution’s price: Earnings fall 30 percent in 2011
CAIRO - Revenues from Egypt's lucrative tourist industry dropped by 30 percent in 2011 due to unrest that rocked the country following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, the minister of tourism said on Sunday.
Munir Fakhri Abdel Nur told reporters that tourism revenues in 2011 dropped to $8.8 billion compared to $12.5 billion in 2010, with tourist arrivals falling and their daily expenditures also dropping.
"The significant drop in revenues last year was expected in a country where millions revolted in all main cities and where the political situation has been developing for the past 12 months," Abdel Nur said.
"The security circumstances in the country have affected tourism," he added, stressing however that he was confident that the situation would improve in the coming year to make up for the losses of 2011.
Abdel Nur said the number of tourist arrivals fell by 33 percent in 2011 with tourists spending fewer nights in Egypt than in the previous year and spending on average about $13 each less per day.
Tourists spent 114 million nights in Egypt in 2011 compared to 141 million nights in 2010, he said, each spending about $72 per day instead of $85 the previous year.
Mubarak was toppled last February after an 18-day popular uprising, with demonstrators setting up protests camps in major cities including in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square near the Egyptian Museum which was also looted.
Deadly clashes between protesters and security forces continued to plague Egypt in the months that followed the ouster of Mubarak, who was replaced by military rulers until a new president is elected.
Abdel Nur said the tourist industry was hit badly in the last quarter in the year, which witnessed deadly unrest in the heart of Cairo.
Concerns for the future of the lucrative industry have mounted amid fears that Islamists, who won a crushing victory in legislative elections, might impose strict Islamic law that could scare off Western holidaymakers.
Official results are still expected but initial ones show Islamist parties have clinched around 70 percent of seats in the next parliament.
Tourism in Egypt, home to Pharaonic sites and Red Sea resorts with pristine beaches and coral reefs that attract divers from around the world, is a key money earner and source of foreign currency along with Suez Canal earnings.
The head of the Suez Canal Authority said on Sunday earnings from the strategic waterway for 2011 stood at $5.22 billion, almost half a billion more than the previous year.