FEATURE-Egypt's Nile cruises docked, awaiting tourism recovery
* Tourism key revenue earner for battered Egypt economy
* Sector eyes hand-over to civilian rulers for rebound
* Hit on tourism means more unemployment, late salaries
By Dina Zayed
ASWAN, Egypt, Oct 19 (Reuters) - The newly launched Al-Hambra cruise ship sailed only twice on the Nile before President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February and has been docked since then on the banks of the river, its plush fittings gathering dust awaiting the return of tourists.
Aswan, the site of majestic pharaonic ruins and one of the most famous stops on Egypt's Nile cruises, has few of the tourists who normally throng its tree-lined river banks. Instead, dozens of ships are moored waiting for customers.
Of the more than 300 cruise liners usually touring this section of the world's longest river, part of a tourist industry that is a major source of revenue in Egypt, not more than 40 are still setting sail, operators say.
"I'm keeping the boat open just to pay salaries, but not to make profit because that's not going to happen anytime soon," Albert Zakaria, manager of one of the operating cruises, Beau Soleil, moored behind the deserted ship, told Reuters.
Like many, Zakaria accepts he has to pay the bills and salaries even without revenues, so as to be ready once tourists return. He is not sure when that will be. Continued...