Cairo: Harassers of foreign tourists in Egypt risk a hefty fine under a draft law that the government approved in an attempt to heal the country’s ailing tourism.
The draft proposes a fine ranging from 3,000 Egyptian pounds (Dh625) to 10,000 pounds for pestering tourists, a heavy fine by Egyptian standards, state television reported on Thursday, quoting Minister of Antiquities Khalid Al Enani as saying.
“Anyone annoying the tourist will be punished by a maximum fine of 10,000 pounds,” Al Enani said.
“This is a new article introduced to the Antiquities Law that was issued in 1983,” he added.
Local hawkers of souvenirs are often seen chasing visitors at the country’s sightseeing sites to force them to buy their wares.
Al Enani said that proposed changes to the law also make illegal excavations and trade in antiquities offences punishable by up to life imprisonment.
In recent years, the illegal practices have become rife in Egypt mainly due to a security breakdown that hit the country following the 2011 uprising.
Egypt has an unrivalled wealth of antiquities dating back to different eras.
The parliament has to pass the proposed draft bill to become an effective law.
Tourism, a major foreign currency earner for Egypt, has been in the doldrums since the 2011 uprising.
The industry received a harsh blow in late 2015 when a Russian passenger plane crashed in Egypt shortly after its departure from the popular resort of Sharm Al Shaikh. All 224 people on board were killed.
The downing, claimed by the Daesh terror group, prompted Russia to halt flights to Egypt. Russians accounted for 31 per cent of the 10 million tourists who visited Egypt in 2014, according to official figures. The flight suspension is still in place.
Tourism used to contribute 11.5 per cent of Egypt’s national gross product. About 5.3 million tourists visited Egypt last year, compared to 9.3 million in 2015, according to Tourism Ministry. A record 15 million had visited Egypt in 2010.
Egyptian officials have said that tourism has started to show signs of recovery in recent months