Libyan unrest will damage tourism industry: Egyptian officials


Cairo : The turmoil rocking the Arab world and currently engulfing Libya will harm tourism in Egypt, according to industry officials.

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Some 450,000 Libyan tourists visit Egypt annually, more than any other Arab country, Samy Mahmoud, director of international tourism at the Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA) was cited as telling Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.

The unrest sweeping through the Arab world and unsettling its autocratic rulers will damage tourism to the entire region, he warned.

“The region’s share of tourism will shift to other states, such as Turkey, the Emirates and Israel,” he said.

Arab nations have been rocked by pro-democracy protests that started in Tunisia in December and spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Oman.

Egypt’s veteran ruler Hosni Mubarak resigned last month after 18 days of mass protests against his rule. The protests cost Egypt’s tourism, industry and construction sectors $1.7 billion, according to a government report.

Around 210,000 tourists left Egypt when the anti-government protests broke out Jan 25, causing the sector to lose $178 million in a single week, said the report.

And jittery tourists cancelled $825 million-worth of reservations in the last week of January, according to the report by Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobility and Statistics (CAPMAS).

ETA’s hotel sector director, Ahmed Attiyam, said hotel occupancy rates remain low compared with the same period last year, and the prices of rooms have fallen.

Egypt’s tourism ministry does not possess a mechanism to control prices, leaving this to market forces, Attiyam said.

He stressed that stability must be restored in the region before tourists will return. A violent crackdown on protesters in Libya has prompted the US, the UN and the European Union to impose sanctions on Libya.

A refugee crisis is looming at the border with Tunisia and Egypt, where the UN estimates that 140,000 people have crossed from Libya in the past 10 days.