x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Morsi calms fears over tourism

Egypt's new president Mohamed Morsi has eased fears he would clamp down on the tourism industry, a major driver of economic growth and employer of 3 million workers.

Egypt's new president, Mohammed Morsi, has eased fears he would clamp down on the tourism industry, a major driver of economic growth and employer of 3 million workers.

Instead, Mr Morsi said the country would work to revive an industry that was devastated by the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak from the presidency in February last year.

"Special tribute is due to tourism workers," Mr Morsi said in his first public address on Friday. "I reiterate and emphasise that I am determined to help them advance and progress."

He said the government would do its utmost to spur investments in the tourism industry.

His comments were backed up by the Egyptian ambassador to Russia, Alaa El Hadidi. He was quoted in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper as saying that Egypt would not place restrictions on some tourist activities as tourism was a significant contributor to GDP.

During the presidential campaign, Mr Morsi's allies had suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Mr Morsi was a member until last week, could push such restrictions if he was elected.

A ban on selling alcohol, wearing bikinis outside hotels and dividing beaches into male and female zones were among the restrictions forecast.

Signs of recovery are already emerging in the industry.

Visitor numbers rose by more than 30 per cent in April over the same period last year, with the number of tourists reaching 1.04 million.

Tourism made up 11.3 per cent of Egypt's economy in 2010. Last year, there was a 33 per cent decline to 9.8 million tourists, according to official statistics. Revenue from tourism, which reached US$12.5 billion (Dh45.91bn) in 2010, fell to $8.8bn last year.

Although it is still significantly off its peak, there has been an improvement in Egyptian tourism, led by the resorts on the Red Sea.

The number of visitors to Egypt increased by 32 per cent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, according to data from the Egyptian Tourist Authority.

tarnold@thenational.ae