Thursday, January 26, 2012

Egyptian frustration as tourists stay away

The Guardian, UK (Jack Shenker)

At the main hall in Cairo's International Conference Centre, the organisers had pulled out all the stops. Suited waiters scurried about with canap├ęs, pyramids of baked treats were stacked up on trestle tables, while dignitaries shook hands fervently in front of snapping cameras. For several hours the only thing missing was the guest of honour – though given the event's title, it was perhaps no surprise that Egypt's tourism minister felt little pressure to appear on time.

When Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour did finally show up at this government-sponsored celebration of "last year's tourism achievements", his keynote speech offered little comfort to the industry figures who had gathered to discover just how bad the past 12 months had been – and what the fragile and protest-battered military government was planning to do about it. Since revolution erupted on 25 January 2011, Egypt's tourism sector – which had been generating more than £8bn a year and was believed to employ one in eight of the workforce – has been decimated.

The upshot, revealed Abdel Nour on Saturday, has been a £2.5bn decrease fall in tourism revenue alongside 32% fewer visitors, with the capital – which has played host to most of the street fighting in recent months – taking the brunt.

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