Glimmer of hope for tourism
Egypt expects only a slight decline in tourist visits to its pharaonic treasures and beach resorts this year, despite a sharp drop in tourism due to the war on Iraq, Egypt’s tourism minister said.
Mamdouh El Beltagi also said war-related financial losses in Egypt’s vital tourism industry were far less than the $2 billion he had forecast just before the war began in March, but he declined to give a figure for the actual shortfall.
“The second part (of 2003) will be better than the first,” he told a Foreign Press Association briefing.
“We are going to receive maybe five million visitors by the end of this year.”
Egypt had some 5.2 million foreign tourists in 2002, after attracting a record 5.5 million in 2000. Bringing in roughly $4 billion a year, tourism is one of its top hard currency earners, along with Suez Canal revenues, expatriate remittances and oil exports.
The number of tourists visiting Egypt, famed for its Red Sea diving and archaeological treasures, dropped by 22 per cent year-on-year in March, when the war against Iraq began.
April figures were down 15 per cent year-on-year, while May numbers were off 10 per cent.
But by June, the sector had recovered, Beltagi said. ”We were expecting in June we would have between five- and seven-per-cent minus.
“But actually June saw a good result of five-per-cent up,” he said, without giving the number of visitors.
“Still, there will be losses,” he added.
Analysts say Egyptian tourism statistics are of limited value, because the number of tourists does not necessarily reflect revenues.