Business | Tourism

Tourism in Egypt drops 28% as turmoil drives visitors away

The number of visitors from the UAE plunges 58% to 55,000

  • By Deena Kamel Yousef, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 August 29, 2011
  • Gulf News

Dubai: Tourism in Egypt dropped by 28 per cent from January to July following the revolution that swept the country at the beginning of this year, according to the latest figures from the Egyptian Tourism Authority (ETA).

The number of UAE visitors to Egypt declined by 58 per cent to reach 55,000 from January to July, Samy Mahmoud, Head of International Tourism Sector at the ETA, told Gulf News. Vistors from from Kuwait dropped 52 per cent, Saudis by 48 per cent and Jordanians by 17 per cent from January to July, according to the ETA.

The number of Arab tourists visiting Egypt declined by 18.6 per cent in the same period. In July alone, their numbers fell by 28.5 per cent.

This drop was balanced by an increase in tourists from Libya following the uprising in the North African neighbour, and Palestine, after the opening of the Rafah crossing, and Sudan, Mahmoud said.

Egypt welcomed 5.7 million tourists from January to July compared to 8.2 million visitors during the same period last year.

Most of the inbound tourists came from Russia, UK, Germany, Italy and France.

The decline in Arab tourism to Egypt was due to the political unrest in Libya, Syria and Yemen, which limited the number of tourists from there to Egypt and the repercussions of the revoultion in Egypt.

Read related stories on the unrest in the Middle East

"We passed through a revolution, a dictator stepped down, a new regime is coming... The first year is a transition period. The protests are especially concentrated in Tahrir Square where there are the six hotels preferred by Arabs," said Dr Naderl El Biblawi, President of Gezira Travel, refering to the Intercontinental, Hilton Ramses and the Four Seasons.

Asked how he rated the performance of the tourism sector this summer, he said: "It was worse than expected. The tourism sector was most affected by the political unrest in Egypt. Sure, the real estate and stock market were all affected, but tourism was the most hit by the revolution in my opinion."

Egypt Air saw a stable number of passengers from Dubai to Cairo and Alexandria this summer compared to the same time last year, according to Ashraf Osman, District Manager for Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

"The numbers did not drop to Cairo and Alexandria. Keep in mind, the summer season started late because schools finished at the end of June. The season is also shorter because of Ramadan in August. It leaves a small window for people to spend Eid and return in time for schools."

Hotel occupancy at the Helnan International Hotels, one of the leading hotel brands in Egypt, reached 80 per cent from June to August and peaked to 98 per cent this month, according to Tamer Al Hossamy, General Manager of Helnan Marina Sharm Hotel.

"We saw a drop in revenue by 30 per cent but not in occupancy because of our discounts and promotional offers... This season there were more Gulf tourists than usual because its safer than Cairo."

The tourism industry in Sharm Al Shaikh, Egypt's tourism hotspot, breathed a sigh of relief when former President Hosni Mubarak was transported from a hospital there to Cairo for his trial hearing on August 3.

"The repercussions of Mubarak moving [out of Sharm Al Shaeikh] will be seen in October," said Al Hossamy, hoping more tourists will come after Muabrak's transfer.

The hotel is fully booked for Eid with 60 per cent of the visitors from Eastern Europe, 40 per cent from Egypt, Middle East and the Gulf, he said.

Al Biblawi expects tourism to bounce back by winter.

Those protesting in Tahrir Square are focusing on the demands and rights that are central to the country and for them, there are bigger things on the agenda than tourism at the moment, he said.

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