Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tourism in Egypt suffers crisis (Heba Saleh)

Tourist buses line the street in front of the Egyptian Museum (above) in downtown Cairo, and visitors cluster in groups around their guides as they prepare to enter the pink neoclassical building that houses the treasures of Tutankhamun and other world-famous pharaonic artefacts.

Despite the hustle and bustle in the courtyard, and the presence of hundreds of tourists, Walid Abdel Razek, a salesman in one of the museum gift shops, laments what he says is a serious drop in the number of visitors.

He reckons his shop is taking half the money it made last year. It is, he claims, the worst crisis to hit Egyptian tourism since 1997 when Islamic militants slaughtered dozens of foreign visitors during an attack in Luxor.

Tourism is an industry that is crucial to the health of the wider Egyptian economy, providing direct and indirect employment to 12.6 per cent of the workforce, according to official figures. After foreign direct investment, it is the country’s largest source of foreign revenue, bringing in $10.8bn in 2007-08 and accounting for 6.5 per cent of gross domestic product.

Last year brought unprecedented growth, beating analysts’ expectations. Arrivals reached a record 12.8m visitors, according to the ministry of tourism, up 15 per cent on the year before.

The sector, however, now faces the threat of a slowdown as a result of the global recession.

“There is a decline in tourist numbers in comparison to last year,” says Adela Ragab, an adviser to the tourism minister. “Those who lost their jobs won’t travel and neither will those who are anxious about their job security. There will be a problem – but how severe and for how long no one can tell you right now.”

Economic conditions have been deteriorating in most of the countries from which tourists come to Egypt. The top four – Russia, Britain, Germany and Italy – all have weakening economies and falling currencies.

See the above page for the full story.

No comments: