Egypt tourist numbers to rise 5-10 pct in 2014 -minister

DUBAI, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Egypt’s tourists should increase by 5 to 10 percent this year as security improves after the election of ex-army chief Fattah al-Sisi as president, the tourism minister said on Thursday.

Tourists are starting to return after more than three years of turmoil drove them away, Hisham Zazou, minister of tourism, told Reuters by telephone.

Since early 2011, Egypt had seen the overthrow of long-standing autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the election and then the ouster of Islamist Mohamed Mursi after barely a year in office, the killing of hundreds of his supporters and jailing of thousand more and the election of Sisi in May.

“After the presidential election, we envisioned better security and stability in Egypt, which has been reflected in the lifting or softening of negative travel advisories by a number of European countries,” Zazou said.

“The European market represents an important source of business and that yielded a better flow of tourists into the country,” Zazou said. “The second half will be much better than the first half and I look forward to an increase.”

More than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, dropping to 9.8 million in 2011. Visitors picked up in 2012 to 11.5 million but shrank to 9.5 million last year after various attacks on tourist destinations.

Tourist revenue in the first half of 2014 was $3 billion, down 25 percent from a year earlier, the government said in August. Earlier government figures had shown tourism was contributing 11.3 percent of Egypt’s GDP and bringing in 14.4 percent of foreign currency revenues.

“We still have a long way to go,” Zazou said. “I cannot claim we have bypassed the low periods we’ve lived for the past three years, but I feel more optimistic now seeing the figures are getting slightly better by the month since June.”

He said Egypt would increase its marketing and advertising to convince foreign tourists it was safe to visit. Much of the promotion will use social media such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Google Inc this week extended its Street View application to six of Egypt’s historical sites, including the Pyramids of Giza and Cairo’s 1,300-year-old Hanging Church.

“Street View is a great source of planning for tourists and we hope more people will be inspired to travel to the country after viewing the images,” said Tarek Abdalla, head of marketing for Google in Middle East and North Africa. (Reporting by Matt Smith in Dubai; Editing by Larry King)