Egypt tourist arrivals rise, not back to pre-revolt levels

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The number of tourists visiting Egypt rose in the first four months of 2012, the cabinet said on Tuesday, but analysts say the sector is still suffering from the aftermath of the country's 2011 uprising.

The revolt that ousted President Hosni Mubarak sparked more than two years of protests, riots and political instability, denting Egypt's tourism sector - a major employer and source of foreign currency.

The number of travellers visiting Egypt in the first four months of 2013 rose 11.8 percent from a year earlier, after falling by a third in the year after the uprising.

Mohamed Abu Basha, an economist at investment bank EFG-Hermes, said he did not expect the sector to fully recover this year, despite the rise in arrivals compared to last year.

The Easter holiday season, which usually draws Western Europeans, had passed and parliamentary elections would probably be held around the time of the winter holiday season, he said.

A full recovery would not be likely until at least 2014 and would depend partly on an improvement in the perception among foreigners of Egypt as a safe place to visit, Abu Basha added.

Egyptian tourism, which accounted for over 10 percent of gross domestic product before the uprising, has been damaged by kidnappings and high-profile accidents.

In February, 19 people, most of them Asian and European, died in a hot air balloon crash near the ancient town of Luxor, a popular tourist destination.

Foreign currency earnings from tourism help Egypt pay for vital imported food and subsidised fuel products.

A cabinet statement said about 4 million tourists visited Egypt in the first four months of 2013 and that tourism revenue rose 16.2 percent to about $3.4 billion.

Some 11.5 million tourists visited the country last year, up from 9.8 million in 2011 but down from 14.7 million in 2010, the last full year before the revolt.

But some economists question the reliability of government figures, particularly revenues, which are based on estimates of average spending.

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