Egypt expects tourism rebound in 2012, security key
By Sherine El Madany
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt expects tourism revenues to rebound by more than a third next year if the country's security situation improves in the wake of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in February and the subsequent political turmoil that sent tourists packing.
Tourism used to account for more than a tenth of Egypt's gross domestic product (GDP) before this year's upheaval, and also employs an estimated one in eight in a country where high joblessness fuelled the anger that led to the uprisings.
"We can get back to the 2010 figures of $12.5 billion in terms of income and 14.7 million tourists in 2012 if perceptions change. And perceptions won't change unless security prevails and calm is restored," Tourism Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
Security across the Arab world's most populous nation worsened after the country's police forces melted away from the streets in late January and after Mubarak's ouster.
But the newly appointed government said it would tighten security measures and beef up police presence in the streets.
"The police are now much more present in Cairo's streets," said Abdel Nour, adding that security has always been good in the main tourist destinations across the country.
Tourism is a crucial source of much-needed foreign currency for Egypt, and analysts say the country's most pressing problem is the slide in foreign reserves as tourism and export earnings suffer from the unrest and capital flees the country.
Reserves have tumbled from around $35 billion at the start of 2011 to about $20 billion by the end of November, and may in coming months reach levels where the central bank is no longer able to prevent sharp falls in the Egyptian pound. Continued...