CAIRO: Egypt’s tourism revenue fell by more than half in February as political turmoil frightened tourists away and prompted countries to warn their citizens against visiting the country, the government said on Wednesday.
An 18-day popular uprising and the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak saw much of Egypt’s economy grind to a halt and also hit its tourism industry, a top foreign currency earner and source of over a tenth of gross domestic product.
The number of tourists visiting Egypt in February slumped to 211,000 from 1.1 million in the same month last year, the state statistics agency said in a faxed statement.
The state statistics agency said tourism spending fell in the month to $385 million compared with $825 million in February 2010.
A slide in foreign exchange earnings has helped weaken the Egyptian pound by 2.45 percent against the dollar since the start of the political turmoil.
Egypt earned nearly $11 billion from tourism in 2009, according to the Tourism Ministry, and more than 7 million tourists visited in the first half of 2010.
Egypt had been aiming to attract 15 million visitors for the full year.
In the months before the crisis, Egypt brought in about $280 million a week from tourism. Many foreign governments have recently lifted or curtailed their travel warnings.
Egypt has had to tackle a number of tourism scares in recent years. In 1997, gunmen killed 58 tourists and four Egyptians at an ancient temple near the southern town of Luxor, all but wiping out tourism for months. From 2004 to 2006, there was a series of deadly bomb attacks at Red Sea resorts in the Sinai, but tourist bookings very swiftly recovered.