Govt: Unrest in Libya impacting Egypt’s tourism

Libya's current turmoil will affect the scale of tourism activity in Egypt, said Samy Mahmoud, director of international tourism at the Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA) on Tuesday.

Libya exports 450,000 tourists to Egypt annually, more than any other Arab country, said Mahmoud, and furthermore the industry will be generally affected by current tensions at the Arab region.

He told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the region's share of tourism will shift to other states, such as Turkey, the Emirates and Israel.

Arab nations have been rocked by pro-democracy protests that started in Tunisia in December 2010, spreading to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Oman. Since 17 February, Libya's mass protests have developed into bloody encounters with security forces loyal to leader Muammar Qhadafi.

ETA's hotel sector director, Ahmed Attiyam, said hotels' occupancy rates remain low comparing to the same period last year, and consequentially there has been a drop in prices. Attiya said that the Ministry of Tourism does not possess a mechanism to control prices, leaving this to market forces.

Attiya predicted that prices will rebound as occupancy rates do. But he stressed that stability must be restored before tourists can be attracted easily to Egypt again.

On 17 February, another government report said Egypt lost over LE10 billion in its tourism, industry and construction sectors due to the 18-day mass pro-democracy protests that had led to the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak.

About 210,000 tourists left Egypt at the end of January, which meant tourism income plummeted by US$178 million (roughly LE1billion) in one week, according to the report by the Central Agency for Public Mobility and Statistics (CAPMAS).

What's more, February reservations were cancelled in late January, amounting to losses of US$825 million (LE4.8 billion). According to the report, tourist facilities were consequently forced to dismiss temporary staff and decrease salaries for permanent workers, meaning a total loss in income of LE70 million.

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