Officials in Egypt say the country’s tourist industry appears to be recovering after years of unrest. Egypt enjoyed a huge increase in visitors during summer and early autumn. But observers say continued insecurity makes tourism undependable – and not profitable enough to cure the country’s weak economy.
Sharm el-Sheik is a historic resort town on the Sinai Peninsula. Foreign tourists often travel to Sharm el-Sheik to see the Red Sea. But they see none of the insecurity that sometimes puts the town’s name in the news. Egyptian officials say they hope that by next year, tourism will return to its pre-2011 level. At that time, the industry earned more than 12 billion dollars in a year.
Tourism minister Hisham Zaazou says the hope and challenge is to report a major return to profitability in the first part of the year. But some observers say this may prove difficult. They say the industry depends on international public opinion of Egypt’s safety in a time of continued unrest.
Sami Baroudi teaches political science at Lebanese American University. He says Egypt needs more economic diversity, and to reduce its dependence on travelers.
“Tourism is a very important but volatile sector. So you cannot pin your economic strategy on a sector that one or two bombings or one or two, basically, assassinations may impact adversely.”
He says that for Egypt to escape widespread crushing poverty, the country needs to invest in industry and export goods. But he adds that unlike the export business, Egypt’s tourism industry already has the infrastructure and expertise that it needs.
“You have to bear in mind all the investments that have been done in the tourism sector, all the jobs in Egypt that are tied to tourism. And the government cannot but give high priority to this sector.”
Three years of political upset have led two Egyptian governments to collapse. And, economists say even if the government succeeds in getting tourists to return, it will still need to depend heavily on foreign aid.
Marwan Iskander is an economist in Lebanon.
“It is not enough to help Egypt to take off because the events that took place between 2011 until 2013 had ended the economy significantly.”
At this time, protests and clashes in Egypt continue. They threaten to affect some of the recent successes in the tourism industry. But Marwan Iskander says new markets are opening up. He notes a large increase in the number of Russians visiting Egypt in recent years. And tour guides say insecurity -- like the Nile River -- will prove long-lasting.
I’m Jeri Watson.
This report was based on a story from reporter Heather Murdock. Jeri Watson adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
enjoyed – v. took pleasure in
challenge – n. a difficult task or problem; something that is hard to do
diversity – n. the quality of having many different forms, types or ideas
sector – n. an area of an economy
upset – n. a period of worry and unhappiness caused by something that has happened