Egypt’s tourism sector losing US$281mn per month: Minister

Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said Friday that the country’s tourism sector has been losing 2.2 billion Egyptian pounds ($283 million) per month since a Russian passenger crashed in Sinai in October, killing all on board.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya news website Zaazou said that the losses are presumed to be the largest in the tourism sector for the past 20 years.

“The numbers of tourists have been decreasing since Russia and Britain banned flights to Egypt from their airports,” he added, referring to a measure put in place following the plane crash.

The Egyptian authorities have not yet released the final results of the investigation into the circumstances of the crash. However, the Russian officials have said they believe a terrorist bomb caused the incident.

Zaazou stressed so far the committee tasked to issue the final report about the incident had not received any information suggesting that the plane was due to a terror attack.

“I believe there is a misunderstanding on the part of many parties, including Russia,” he said.

The minister did not specify when the committee will finalise its report.

Hurghada incident

Speaking about a stabbing incident that took place in the Red Sea town Hurghada last week, Zaazou said that the incident hadn’t had a major effect on the number of tourists that have lately been visiting the country, especially Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh.

Three European tourists were stabbed by local attackers while eating at a hotel restaurant in Hurghada. Authorities said terrorism was not behind the incident.

Zaazou told Al-Arabiya that the way Egyptian authorities dealt with the Hurghada attack has also helped the situation saying that “we have learnt from past experiences and the need for speedily being present in the place of the incident and the transparency in reporting the attack.”

The minister also shed light on more procedures for the safety of tourists, for which the Egyptian cabinet has allocated funds.

As an example, Zaazou said that the number of CCTV cameras in touristic sites will be increased.

“I hope that tourism gets back to its normal level before 13 months pass, which is the expected period, according to studies, needed for such circumstances,” he added.

Speaking about the UK-based Control Risks Group, a consultancy firm that is to review and enhance security arrangements at Egyptian airports, Zaazou said that Egypt had not signed yet any contracts with the firm but added that the signing might take place by the beginning of February.

He said that Marsa Alam International Airport, located in the Red Sea governorate, will join the list of those under review by the firm.

Cairo International Airport and Sharm El-Sheikh airport will also be reviewed.

“A British team is currently reviewing the safety conditions and the security of airports as per request by the UK,” he stated.

Zaazou said in the interview that Egyptian revenues from the tourism sector in 2014 were LE7.2 billion and that they had been hoping for an increase of 15-20 percent in 2015.

Before the plane crash, there were signs of a recovery; tourism revenues surged 45.3 percent to reach $7.4 billion in the fiscal year ending 30 June 2015, compared to $5.1 billion in the same period the previous year, according to the central bank.

Although street protests in Egypt have decreased over the past two years, the recovery in tourism revenues remains well below the $12.5 billion generated in the peak year of 2010 prior to the uprising that unseated long time autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Source: Ahram online

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