Minister: Egypt’s tourism increases 200% in September

The flow of tourists to Egypt has increased tangibly over the past six months, according to Minister of Tourism, Hisham Zaazou who was speaking before the American Chamber of Commerce in Cairo (AmCham) on Saturday.

Zaazou said incoming tourism to Egypt increased by around 200 percent in September compared to the same month last year, quoting data issued by Egypt State Information Service (SIS).

Additionally, the number of tourists visiting Egypt increased 76.7 percent in August 2014 compared to only 20 percent in the same period last year, according to Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).

The increase reflects successful efforts of the Tourism Ministry to revive that vital sector and restore travel rates to those achieved prior to the January 25 revolution in 2011, the minister said.

"We expect the tourism sector to show between 10 and 15 percent revenue growth in 2H2014, primarily benefiting from last year’s very low base – where revenues were 30 percent of pre-revolution levels – as well as the recent lifting of the various travel bans to Sinai from Western European countries," said Mohamed Abu Basha, Cairo-based economist at EFG.

Moreover, anecdotal evidence suggests the sector has already seen a notable improvement in arrivals from Arab tourists during the summer.

CAPMAS reported that the number of tourists arriving from Arab countries increased by 91.6 percent in August 2014 compared to the same period last year.

"We maintain our view that the sector’s key test season would be the Western Eastern Europe in February and March, where we would be looking for between 15 and 20 percent of revenue growth in order to deem the sector as indeed in recovery mode," Abu Basha added.

CAPMAS point out that the rise in tourist arrivals in August from the Eastern European countries was 152.6 percent.

Russia in particular witnessed a 179.7 percent increase in tourism from the same period in 2013, and many governments recently lifted travel warnings issued for the Sinai Peninsula.

However, the two attacks on Egyptian military positions in the Sinai last month killed at least 33 soldiers have cast doubts on the growth of tourism, especially in this area

Given this, safety and political stability are 'key' to the return of foreign tourists, as analysts said

"After a slight improvement in 2012, tourism took another hit in 2013 when hundreds were killed in violence that followed the army's overthrow of elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsy in July after mass protests against him," according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, tourism receipts in fiscal year 2013/14 have witnessed a decrease of 48 percent to reach US$5.1billion, compared to $9.8 billion during FY12/13. according to the Ministry of Finance.

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