One week after a hot air balloon accident killed more than a dozen tourists in Luxor, the country’s Minister of Tourism, Dr. Hisham Zazou, will leave Egypt as scheduled to attend ITB Berlin, one of the world's biggest tourism trade shows.
His mission takes on a greater sense of urgency after the 26 February balloon accident, one of a series of incidents that have attracted negative international attention to a country mired in civil turmoil. Tourism sector workers worry that such incidents will keep visitors away from the Land of the Pharaohs, causing further hardships amid a climate of inflation here.
Europe is the major tourism market for the North African country, whose economy is heavily reliant on visitors, said Rasha Azaizi, head of the media and press office for Egypt's Ministry of Tourism.
“Seventy-five percent of our source markets are based in Europe, with the main ones being German, Italian and British," she said.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Association, or UNWTO, tourism in Egypt brought in US$10.1 billion in 2012 as the country saw a 17% increase in visitors over 2011. This year initially looked bright for tourism, or so indicated a 26 February report released by the Ministry of Tourism. In January 2013, around 900,000 tourists visited Egypt, a 10.2% increase compared to the same month in 2012, the report said.
European guests accounted for roughly 70% of the visits, bringing in US $1 billion in revenue.
"Tourism alternates between the first and second income source for foreign currency,” Azaizi said, adding that the sector employs more than four million Egyptians.