Egypt's tourists return, visitors treble
The number of tourists to Egypt more than trebled in February compared with the same period last year at the height of the unrest.
The country, which has experienced a renewal of violence in recent weeks, welcomed 753,000 visitors who stayed a total of 8.3 million nights in February, according to the central agency for public mobilisation and statistics. The figure compares with 211,000 visitors who stayed 4.5 million nights in February last year - the same month the president Hosni Mubarak was toppled following weeks of resistance against his rule.
Egypt has experienced a 32 per cent rise in arrivals in the first quarter of this year compared with a year ago, according to Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, Egypt's minister of tourism. Speaking at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai last week, he said he expected the number of visitors to reach levels last seen before the revolution in 2011, when it welcomed 1.1 million tourists in 2010.
Egypt has put significant effort into trying to lure tourists back from the GCC, launching an advertising campaign last May that targeted Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE. The number of Emirati tourists to Egypt increased by 15.4 per cent in the first quarter, figures from the Egyptian Tourist Authority show, rising from 4,232 to 4,883.
"We have had bookings to Egypt, but we cannot declare we have had many," said William Horsley, the General Manager of Al Futtaim Travel. "It was one of the most popular destinations from the Gulf, apart from Malaysia and Indonesia, that area. That declined and it hasn't come back to normal. And I don't think it will for some time yet," he added.
After the Gulf countries, Europe is the largest tourist market for Egypt, according to Mr. Horsley. "If you are looking at Europe, financially because of the global situation and this coupled with the recent uprisings they have had in Egypt. I would imagine, deter some of the operators," he said. The UK foreign and commonwealth office is advising against all but essential travel to Sinai north of the Suez-Taba road.
"The other factor is the further you get into the summer, the hotter it becomes, which makes it a less attractive proposition," adds Mr. Horsley.