Ministers in call to promote inter-Arab tourism
Arab states should step up efforts to keep Arab tourists at home and boost an industry battered by September 11, officials said.Egyptian Tourism Minister Mamdouh Al Beltagui told a gathering of Arab ministers and officials it was time to deliver on promises to promote tourism between Arab states and stem the flow of tourist dollars outside the region. "We don't want to continue like this. It is impossible for us to announce decisions (to promote Arab tourism), then meet to discuss implementing them and then meet yet again to discuss implementing them. We must act. There is a limit to patience," Beltagui said in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. Bahrain Information Mnister Nabeel Al Hamer said Bahrain's participation showed a keen desire to enhance tourism infrastructure in the Arab states. He expressed confidence that Arab tourism can cope with international standards. Travel and tourism to the Middle East tumbled by about 30 per cent after the September 11 attacks, a sharper fall than in any other part of the world, Jordanian Tourism and Antiquities Minister Taleb Rifai said. Alongside September 11, analysts have said the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has also encouraged many non-Arab tourists to stay away. Rifai said Arab tourists spent $26 billion a year outside their own countries and Arab states should attempt to capture more of these funds.