Egypt has high hopes for tourism despite grim statistics, setbacks

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 1:24 PM

Yehia Rashed said the ancient land of the pyramids and Ruddy Sea resorts was determined to safe a powerful recovery even though the no of foreign tourists fell by forty % in the first quarter of two thousand sixteen, compared with the same period latest year.

Egypt is confident of luring back millions of foreign visitors and putting a smile on their faces, according to its new tourism minister, despite heavy first quarter losses and setbacks including a bomb that brought down a Russian passenger plane.

Yehia Rashed said the ancient land of the pyramids and Ruddy Sea resorts was determined to safe a powerful recovery even though the no of foreign tourists fell by forty % in the first quarter of two thousand sixteen, compared with the same period latest year.

The most populous Arab nation aims to attract twelve million tourists by the finish of two thousand seventeen with a six-point plan, he said.

"I'm very hopeful, optimistic about the future of tourism into Egypt," Rashed told Reuters in an interview. "I wish to obtain that smile that you're smiling into the faces of everybody. We wish to stay positive."

Egypt tourism income has taken a heavy hit since a Russian plane crashed in the Sinai latest October, killing all two hundred twenty-four people on board in what President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called an act of terrorism. Islamic State said it planted a bomb on board.

Rashed said Egypt had improved airport security since the crash. "These people have worked day and night," he said. "Egypt is safe."

The torture of Italian graduate learner Giulio Regeni, whose body was dumped on the side of a road in February, has also damage Egypt'south image.

Human rights groups declare torture marks on his body fit a pattern that suggested Egyptian security services had killed him, an allegation the government has strongly denied.

Asked if Egypt would get action if it was determined that a constable had killed Regeni, as widely suspected among human rights groups, Rashed said "justice is justice".

"We care huge time about human rights. The best way, actually, is to create positive vibes in the mind of people that Egypt is secure and it's worth visiting," he added.

The Regeni case has brought allegations of widespread police brutality in Egypt below sharper focus.

HURTING EARNER

Egypt'south tourism industry, a cornerstone of the economy and critical source of tough currency, has been struggling to rebound after the political and economic upheaval triggered by the two thousand eleven uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak'south 30-year rule.

More than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt in two thousand-tenth, dropping to 9.8 million in 2011.

"The first quarter is down about forty % compared to latest year. However, there is a positive with every negative. The Gulf business is up about forty-five % from last year," said Rashed.

Egyptian tourism has survived tough times in the past.

In one thousand nine hundred ninety-seventh Islamic militants killed fifty-eight tourists and four Egyptians at a temple in Luxor, on the Nile.

Rashed seemed optimistic. He said the new six-point map to boost tourism would comprise increasing the presence of national carrier EgyptAir abroad, working with low-cost airlines and the improvement of services.

Asked how the state would fund these projects, he said:

"We're not doing new things what we're doing is stimulation programs. Taking from the current funding and putting it into where our bread and butter is," said Rashed.

"We don't have the figures of the total cost of this. We're currently working on the costing."

(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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