The number of tourists visiting Egypt should hit 12 million by 2017, that is according to the country’s Tourism Minister, Yehia Rashed.
Egypt has over the years seen its tourist numbers decline. It fell by 40 percent in the first quarter of 2016, a development largely attributed to attacks by Islamist militants.
In January this year, 3 foreign tourists were stabbed in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada by an attacker armed with knives.
But before that was the downing of a Russian passenger plane in the Sinai peninsula in October last year, an attack president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi called a terror attack. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack saying it had planted a bomb on board the plane.
There has been other attacks such as the one on the Karnak Temple near Luxor, a tourist hotspot in June last year.
The murder of an Italian PhD student from the Cambridge University, Guilio Regeni in February this year seems to be creating tensions between Egypt and Italy and would most likely affect its projected tourist numbers.
But the Egyptian tourism minister is confident the situation between the two countries could only get better.
“The Egyptian government works hand in hand with all the other governments,” he said adding that “the relationship between Egypt and Russia is so strong … The relationship between the Egyptian government and the Italian government is lifetime.”
“I have Italian friends that say to me ‘we’re more Egyptian than Italian’. You know. It is, that’s what it is,” he told Reuters.
Yehia Rashed is hoping the surge in the number of visitors to Gulf countries so far this year will rub off on Egypt.
“Quarter to quarter, we’re down 40 percent. However, there is a positive with every negative. You know. The Gulf business is up about 45 percent from last year, ok, so while the total business is down 40 percent, the Gulf is up 45 percent. So that invites us to talk about the importance of the Gulf tourism into Egypt,” he told Reuters.
He however assured that security was being improved across the country including at the airports.
“These people have worked day and night, and I think you need to see some of the efforts that have been made to enhance security everywhere; whether it’s at the airport, whether it’s in the market place. I mean, I’m sure you live here, you know, and you understand; Egypt is safe,” the Tourism Minister said.
Egypt’s tourism industry, a critical source of income for the country, has been struggling since the 2011 uprising which toppled Hosni Mubarak’s government.
More than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, but the figure dropped to 9.8 million in 2011.