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Egypt, Tunisia strive to woo back tourists scared off by unrest
AFP | March 10, 2013 22:53
By Agencies
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Two years after the Arab Spring uprisings, Tunisia and Egypt are trying to win back tourists in a lifeblood sector for both countries which are gripped by renewed political crisis.

Tourism officials from Tunisia and Egypt were keen to stress at the ITB Berlin tourism fair, which closed Sunday, that their destinations are safe and outlined plans for wooing back visitors.

Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou admitted his stated goal to boost the number of tourists back up to almost 2010's pre-Arab Spring level of 14.7 million was ambitious given that it fell to 11.5 million last year.

"My target at least is to reach 14 million by the end of 2013. Maybe I have high hopes but I'm working very hard," he told a news conference.

Tunisia is also aiming high and, as in Egypt, tourism plays a key role in the economy of the country, beset by tensions and uncertainty sparked by the assassination last month of a leftist politician.

Tourism accounts for a sixth of the workforce in Tunisia which, according to the director general of the National Tourism Office Habib Ammar, aims to have welcomed 7 million tourists by end-2013 as in 2010 - an increase of 1 million from current levels.

Nearly 12 million people rely directly or indirectly on the tourism industry in Egypt, where unrest has contributed to a painful economic crisis since 2011 when a popular uprising ousted long-time president Hosni Mubarak.

"We are in a political transition. It doesn't mean that we are not going forward. We are a welcoming nation," Zaazou stressed.

To promote Egypt as a tourism destination and counter the image conjured up by international headlines, the minister plans to set up giant screens in European cities projecting live webcam pictures from venues such as the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh or the ancient temple city of Luxor.

"We notice if Egypt is not in the media the figures go back very quickly, meaning that the demand for Egypt is there," Zaazou told AFP but he noted that the capital Cairo was particularly suffering.

Another initiative aims to support small businesses reliant on tourism, he said.

"For instance, we have now a program for the caleche owners to feed the horses because they don't have enough money," Zaazou said.

AFP


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