Cairo: Egyptians are expecting the return of tourists post pro-democracy uprising, including from India, to help revive the country's ailing economy. "India can be a major source of tourism to Egypt," says new Egyptian Tourism Minister Mounir Fakry Abdel Noor.

Though the ancient civilization and world famous pyramids continue to be a draw, the Egyptians are hoping that the tourists will now flock to the iconic Tahrir Square -- the
nerve centre of recent uprising.

Tourism in Egypt known for pyramids, colorful markets and the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh has all but come to a halt since the uprising began in January and eventually
overthrew the regime of longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

The Egyptian authorities are also counting on tourists from India to help revive the economy which earned USD 12.5 billion in 2010 from tourism.

Tourism revenues constitute around 11 per cent of Egyptian economy which took a hit as between January 25 and February 1, at least 1 million tourists cut short their visits short or cancelled them.

"Egypt is a golden destination. Once security is restored - and to a large extent it has been restored – it won't be a problem to bring back the tourists," he said.

Tourism in Egypt has been prone to problems over the last decades, whether political problems or security problems, but the effect was not as significant as is after the January
25 democracy movement, he said.

The world witnessed a revolution which lasted for 18 days and it was all over the country, Noor said, referring to popular uprising.

"What happened is unique. Youth, who believed in a cause defeated armoured vehicles. They have gained admiration of the world," he said.

"We are doing everything that is in the book to revive tourism. We are also thinking outside the box," he said.

"In June, we are hosting a fortnight-long international festival, where we are inviting global figures, music bands, actors to catch the attention of the world and to confirm that security is prevailing and that Egyptians are rejoicing in a new Egypt where everybody has the right to express opinion," he said.

The other steps being taken to revive tourism include advertising, book promotion, subsidized chartered flights, visit to countries from where a large chunk of tourists come,
direct connection with large tour operators.

"I spent the first two weeks in office contacting ambassadors to waive travel advisories and we succeeded. I went to Moscow and Berlin to convince the authorities. Last year, we received 2.8 million tourists from Russia which tops the list of countries from where Egypt gets maximum tourists," he said.

 

(Agencies)