* Tourism represents more than 11 pct of GDP
* Previous downturns short-lived
* Holidaymakers in resorts unaffected
By Maria Sheahan,
FRANKFURT, Jan 29 European tour operators and
airlines cancelled trips to Cairo as angry protesters took to
the streets, dealing a blow to a tourism industry that provides
about one in eight jobs in the country.
Mass protests have raged in Egyptian cities in the past five
days against President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, and at
least 74 people have been killed. Police and the army have
turned out in force to quell the demonstrations.
Television footage of tanks on city streets, burning
buildings and running battles between police and protesters will
slash tourism levels, although it may only be short-term.
When gunmen killed 58 tourists and four Egyptians at an
ancient temple in Luxor in 1997, tourism slumped but picked up
fairly quickly and since then has weathered disruptions
The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the second Palestinian Intifada,
and a series of bomb attacks on tourist resorts in Sinai from
2004 to 2006 all led to temporary decreases in tourist arrivals,
but the trend over the last decade has been broadly upward.
In 2009 about 12.5 million tourists visited Egypt, bringing
revenue of $10.8 billion. The tourism sector is one of the top
sources of foreign revenue, accounting for more than 11 percent
of GDP, and offers jobs in a country beset by high unemployment.
Take a Look on protests in Egypt [ID:nLDE70O2DA]
Factbox on Egypt's tourism industry [ID:nLDE70P1CB]
Some governments advised their citizens against travelling
to Egypt unless they had to, and the Egyptian government has
imposed a curfew, prompting airlines including Germany's
Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) to cancel flights to Cairo on Saturday.
British Airways BAY.L said it sent an extra plane to
"We've booked a charter flight that's going in today in
order to get as many people out as we can," said a BA
spokesperson, adding the plane can carry up to 90 people.
A BMI flight to Cairo carrying 64 passengers and six crew
members returned to London after turning back in mid-flight, a
spokesman for the Lufthansa-owned carrier said.
QUIET HOLIDAY REGIONS
Outside of major urban centres the dissent has been more
muted and the impact less severe.
Operators TUI Travel TT.L and Thomas Cook (TCG.L) stuck
with scheduled trips to Red Sea holiday destinations such as
Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheik saying travellers were safe so far
away from the cities.
Tourists basking in the sun at resorts on the Red Sea coast
continued to enjoy their vacations, tour operators said.
"Our tour management organisation in Egypt tells us that
everything is quiet in the holiday regions and that our guests
are having a quiet holiday there," a spokeswoman for TUI
Deutschland TUI Travel's TT.L German arm, said.
Thomas Cook (TCG.L) said it had cancelled stays in Cairo for
holidaymakers booked on round trips of Egypt. Both companies
said none of their guests had asked to return home early.
Some tourists were untroubled by the unrest.
"It's been an experience I'll never forget," said Joe, an
American about to wrap up a two-week visit to Egypt.
Michelle, a tourist from Australia, said she was going ahead
with a visit on Sunday to the Mediterranean city of Alexandria,
which has also seen massive protests against Mubarak.
"That's going to a highlight for us, because my father was
born in Alexandria," she told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Martin, Mohammed Abbas, and
Mohamed Zaki; Editing by Matthew Jones)