Egypt’s largest public lender, the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) is planning to extend the grace period for loans granted to its customers in the tourism industry which is reeling from a slump in tourist arrivals.
The announcement was made by Yehia Abu El Fotouh, the vice-president of the NBE who asserted that the tourism sector owed the bank almost 20 billion Egyptian pounds (just over a billion dollars).
The move is aimed at helping the sector recover following a string of terror attacks that have sent tourists fleeing from the north African nation.
Tourism has long been a mainstay of the country’s economy, which is the second largest in the Arab world after Saudi Arabia.
Before the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, tourism employed more than one in 10 of the workforce and generated the equivalent of $12.5bn in revenue.
At that time, Egypt could boast nearly 15 million tourists a year, lured by such attractions as the pyramids in Cairo and the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
However, the downing of a Russian jet that took off from the resort in October last year and insecurity in the restive Sinai Peninsula has led to foreign holidaymakers booking their vacation elsewhere.
By 2013, tourism numbers had fallen by one-third to under 10 million a year, and has undoubtedly slumped further since then.
Also affected is revenue which in 2015 stood at $6.1bn, just under half the 2010 figure.