Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

December 26, 2012

New turmoil hits Egypt's tourism

(Continued)

"Nobody can plan anything because one day you find that everything might be OK and another that everything is lost. You can't even take a right decision or plan for the next month," said Magda Fawzi, head of Sabena Management.

She's thinking of shutting down her company, which runs two hotels in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh and four luxury cruise boats on the Nile between the ancient cities of Luxor and Aswan. In one hotel, only 10 of 300 rooms are booked, and only one of her ships is operating, she said. She has already downsized from 850 employees before the revolution to 500.

"I don't think there will be any stability with this kind of constitution. People will not accept it," she said.

Tourism, one of Egypt's biggest foreign currency earners, was gutted by the turmoil of last year's 18-day uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Scared off by the upheaval, the number of tourists fell to 9.8 million in 2011 from 14.7 million the year before, and revenues plunged 30 percent to $8.8 billion.

This year, the industry struggled back. By the end of September, 8.1 million tourists had come, injecting $10 billion into the economy. The number for the full year is likely to surpass 2011 but is still considerably down from 2010.

For the public, it has meant a drying up of income, given that tourism provided direct or indirect employment to one in eight Egyptians in 2010, according to government figures.

Poverty swelled at the country's fastest rate in Luxor province, highly dependent on visitors to its monumental temples and the tombs of King Tutankamun and other pharaohs. In 2011, 39 percent of its population lived on less than $1 a day, compared to 18 percent in 2009, according to government figures.

For the government, the fall in tourism and foreign investment since the revolution has worsened a debt crisis and forced talks with the International Monetary Fund over a $4.8 billion loan.

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