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Tourism in Egypt: Arab spring break

May 2, 2013

TWO years of political upheaval have battered tourism, a motor of Egypt?s economy. Much of the Nile cruise fleet lies idle. Trinket-sellers and would-be guides at the Giza pyramids are so hungry for custom that they often mob or simply jump aboard approaching taxis. And though the damage has been patchy, with beach resorts still thriving even as visitors shun the ancient monuments, lingering uncertainty over the future means it may be years before Egypt regains its place in the sun.

In 2010, the last year before Egypt?s revolution, a record 14m tourists arrived. The industry was 13% of GDP and directly or indirectly employed one in seven workers. Arrivals plummeted to 9.5m in 2011, and have yet to recover (see chart). Tourism Economics, a consultancy, predicts that 11.4m tourists will come in 2013.Yet those numbers disguise the sharpest pain. The Egyptian Tourism Federation estimates that hotel occupancy rates are barely 15% in Cairo and below 5% in Luxor, the site of the Valley of the Kings, where 19 people died in a hot-air balloon explosion in February. In January armed looters infiltrated a protest in central Cairo and stormed into the InterContinental Semiramis,...

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