CAIRO Egypt expects to receive more than 12 million tourists by the end of 2012, a 23 percent rise over the previous year, the tourism minister said on Tuesday, adding that he did not expect the election of a new Islamist president to stifle the industry.
Egypt's economy has been hit by a decline in tourist numbers and investors in the wake of the popular uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak 17 months ago.
Many in the tourism sector fear recovery would be slow if President Mohamed Mursi imposes Islamic strictures on the sector such as banning the skimpy swim wear and alcohol that are a normal part of a beach holiday for many foreign tourists.
The Brotherhood has not indicated it would do either.
Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour said at a press conference in Cairo that Egypt received 5,242,652 tourists during the first six months of 2012, a 27 percent rise on the same period of 2011. He noted a significant rise in tourist arrivals from Russia, Poland and Germany in particular.
"I expect that the second half of the year will witness great recovery in tourism," Abdel Nour said, citing among other factors new initiatives by the ministry to boost ecotourism.
"I expect that Egypt will be able, without much effort, to receive more than 12 million tourists by the end of the year," he told the conference.
Asked whether he had concerns the sector's recovery could be slowed down by strictures imposed by Mursi, Abdel Nour said he did not expect that any political leader would impose policies that could harm the country's vital tourism industry.
"No political force, political party, president or government working in a democratic, responsible framework, and therefore accountable to public opinion ... could follow policies that harm tourism in Egypt," he said.
"Four million people work in tourism, while more than 14 million are impacted by it indirectly," he added, saying Egypt had the potential to achieve, by 2017, tourism revenues of $25 billion, double the figure it earned in 2010, pre-uprising.
Tourism, one of Egypt's top foreign currency earners, constitutes 11 percent of gross domestic product. (Reporting by Shaimaa Fayed; editing by Ron Askew)