'Bikinis and booze welcome in Egypt'
Published 06/05/2013 | 11:53
Egypt is open to visitors who drink alcohol and wear bikinis, its tourism minister has declared, as the country aims to boost numbers by at least a fifth this year.
Tourism, a pillar of the Egyptian economy, has suffered since the Arab Spring revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Hisham Zaazou, the tourism minister, said the government had "optimistic goals" for the sector, playing down comments from radical Salafi Muslim groups calling for a ban on alcohol and women wearing swimsuits.
"Bikinis are welcome in Egypt and booze is still being served," Mr Zaazou, who is not a Brotherhood member, said during a visit to the UAE.
"We had talks with these Salafi groups and now they understand the importance of the tourism sector, but still you have some individuals that are not from the leadership saying these things."
President Mohamed Morsi's government increased alcohol taxes in December but back down after it was criticised by the tourism sector and liberals.
Before the uprising, tourism was worth more than a tenth of Egypt's economic output. In 2010, 14.7 million visitors came, generating $12.5 billion in earnings, but arrivals slowed to 9.8 million the following year and income to $8.8 billion.
According to Mr Zaazou, 2012 saw a recovery as 11.5 million tourists came and revenues rebounded to about $10 billion. In the first quarter of 2013 about three million tourists visited, a 14.6 per cent rise from the same period last year, he said.
Egypt's long term target was to reach 30 million tourists and revenues of $25 billion by 2022.
Mr Zaazou said rebuilding tourism was a national priority. To help meet the goal of increasing visitor numbers by 20 per cent this year, his ministry has installed cameras in major resorts which feed live video onto its website.
"We want to show people that Egypt is safe, and the best way to show this is by live streaming. The next step will be to have these images shown on big screens in public squares in Paris or New York."