Egyptian Minister: Tourism Sector Down Since Sharon Took Office
By Mohammad Baali
Albawaba.com – Cairo
Egyptian Minister of Tourism Mamdouh Al Biltaji on Wednesday announced that the country's tourism sector had been negatively affected by the Palestinian Intifada, particularly since Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took office.
“Tourism has declined by nearly eight percent since Sharon took office,” Biltaji said.
The minister told Egyptian journalists at a meeting held Wednesday at the press association headquarters that his country had paid part of the bill for the turbulence in the region.
He cited the closure of borders with neighboring countries, which had led to a severe decline in the number of tourists coming from Israel and Palestine.
The flow of tourists from Israel to Egypt during the period between September 2000 and April 2001 decreased by 67 percent, followed by a 32.7 percent decline in the number of tourists coming via Palestine.
These two neighbors were once among the top ten countries channeling tourists to Egypt.
Moreover, tourism in the region as a whole has gone down, particularly due to the decline in the number of American tourists, who used to take package tours of Egypt and Israel.
“Despite the negative impact, tourism to Egypt is expected to generate $4.8 billion in revenues in the fiscal year 2000/2001. Revenues in the next financial year are expected to reach $5.3 billion,” the minister said.
He added that this growth was consistent with growing tourist revenues over the past years. Reports from the Central Bank of Egypt show that these revenues increased from around $3 billion in 1995/1996 to $3.65 billion in 1996/1997, growing at a rate of 21.7 percent, which is considered the highest growth rate among all the economic sectors.
“Despite the negative impact of the Luxor incident (when 58 tourists were killed by Islamist terrorists), which led to a decline in the tourism revenues to $2.94 billion in 1997/1998, tourism to Egypt has quickly flourished as the revenues increased to about $3.2 billion in 1998/1999. These revenues continued to increase and amounted to $4.3 billion in 1999/2000,” Biltaji added.
The minister said that “despite my reservation regarding these figures, which do not include all tourist transactions, I would like to confirm that tourism ranks number one among the revenue generating sources in Egypt. It also contributes to covering nearly 30 percent of Egypt’s trade balance deficit. Tourism to Egypt has become the engine of economic development in the country.”
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