Egypt's tourism revenues drop 30 percent in 2011, a year of tumult


Foreign tourists enjoy the sunny weather at the beach of the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, some 300 miles east of Cairo, on Jan 3.



Egypt's government said today that tourism revenues had plummeted 30 percent last year as continuing instability following the revolutions which toppled former President Hosni Mubarak and other Arab autocrats slowed economies and brought officials in Cairo to the door of the International Monetary Fund, according to The Associated Press.

Citing the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper, the AP said Tourism Minister Abdel Nour was quoted as saying the number of visitors in 2011 had also declined by 33 percent to 9.8 million arrivals, down from 14.7 million in 2010. Revenues for the year were $8.8 billion, down from $12.5 billion in 2010, according to the AP.

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A year on from the Revolution of January 25, daily protests and strikes highlighted the challenges to the transitional government in Cairo as efforts proceeded to install an elected government.

Four months after Mubarak's ouster, Egypt launched a new tourism campaign titled "Where it All Begins" and seeking to lure more affluent visitors from Gulf states, according to eTurboNews, a travel industry website. The new campaign marked a shift from the heavily promoted 2006 campaign "The Gift of the Sun" which featured prominently on satellite television broadcasters. That year Egypt boldly claimed it could attracted 16 million visitors by 2014, according to Daily News Egypt.

Though it had earlier rejected an offer of assistance from the IMF, which provides balance-of-payments support to central banks around the world to promote economic trade and stability, Egypt is now asking for IMF support, according to the AP. An IMF delegation visited this week and officials formally sought a $3.2 billion support package.

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Some Egyptians fear the terms of such a loan could include austerity requirements and result in reduced fuel and food subsidies but the IMF in a statement sought to allay these worries, according to the AP.

"The program developed by the Egyptian authorities and its key policies are currently being discussed with emerging political parties to ensure broad political support," Masood Ahmed, the IMF's director for the Middle East and Central Asia, was quoted as saying in a statement.

"This should help reduce uncertainty and boost confidence in the program's successful implementation."