Egypt, Tunisia strive to woo back tourists
Berlin: Two years after the Arab Spring uprisings, Tunisia and Egypt are trying to win back holidaymakers in a lifeblood sector for both countries which are gripped by renewed political crisis. Leading tourism officials from Tunisia and Egypt were keen to stress at the ITB Berlin tourism fair, which closes Sunday, that their destinations are safe and outlined plans for wooing back visitors.
Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou admitted his stated goal to boost the number of tourists back up to almost the pre-Arab Spring level in 2010 of 14.7 million was ambitious given that it fell to 11.5 million last year. "My target at least is to reach 14 million by the end of 2013. Maybe I have high hopes but I'm working very hard," he told a news conference.
Tunisia is also aiming high and, as in Egypt, tourism plays a key role in the economy of the country, beset by tensions and uncertainty sparked by the assassination last month of a leftist politician. Tourism accounts for a sixth of the workforce in Tunisia which, according to the director general of the National Tourism Office Habib Ammar, aims to have welcomed seven million tourists by end-2013 as in 2010 - an increase of one million from current levels.
Nearly 12 million people rely directly or indirectly on the tourism industry in Egypt, where unrest has contributed to a painful economic crisis since 2011 when a popular uprising ousted long-time president Hosni Mubarak. "We are in a political transition. It doesn't mean that we are not going forward. We are a welcoming nation," Zaazou stressed here.