Egypt promises sun, sand and no strife says travel minister
Egypt's next government won't take any steps that reduce the country's appeal to international travellers, its current tourism minister has vowed.
Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour was speaking ahead of annual tourism industry showcase the Arabian Travel Market, which opens in Dubai today. Political turmoil saw the number of tourists visiting Egypt in 2011 slump by a third on the previous year - down 33 per cent to around 10 million, Abdel Nour said.
The transition to a democratic system after more than three decades of rule by former president Hosni Mubarak has not been without tensions and it was reported that four protestors were killed in clashes with the military in Cairo yesterday.
However, Abdel Nour said that media coverage of Egypt “does not express what is actually happening inside the country” and claimed that away from the now-famous rallying point of Tahrir Square life was largely unchanged for most of his countrymen.
“Beyond that there is a great majority who live their life normally,” he said.
“The farmers grow, the people who work in the factories produce and the hotel managers run their resorts - everybody is doing his job smoothly.” The identity of Egypt’s next president will not be known until elections are held next month, but there has been some anxiety that the next regime may seek to enforce social curbs that would make the country less attractive to tourists.
However, Abdel Nour said yesterday that no matter who takes control, they can’t afford to make any damaging changes that affect the tourism sector - a critical part of Egypt’s economy.
“I would like to remind you that tourism represents more than 11 per cent of Egypt’s GDP,” he said, speaking through a translator.
The industry employs four million Egyptians, or 6.5 per cent of the country’s workforce, and Abdel Nour said any drop in visitor numbers affects a diverse range of workers which ranges from cotton farmers to fruit and vegetable suppliers.
“No person in charge, no matter what his beliefs, political motivations, or ideology will take actions that may hamper tourism or affect tourism - especially if he works in a democratic climate,” he said.
Egypt wants to use this week’s Arabian Travel Market to boost Arab visitor numbers as it seeks to welcome 30 million tourists a year by 2017.