Egypt recorded a 17 percent rise in tourists in 2012 and a 13 percent increase in income generated, the tourism minister said on Tuesday, indicating a steady recovery in the vital industry.
Hisham Zaazou did not give total numbers but the percentage rises, according to a Reuters calculation based on 2011 figures, would indicate about 11.5 million tourists came in 2012 and generated $9.9 billion.
That is well short of the 14.5 million visitors who brought revenues of $12.5 billion in 2010 before an uprising erupted in January 2011, leading to the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak and two years of political turmoil and violence that scared away many tourists.
The minister said he was pleased with the numbers, which will provide some support for Egypt's economy which is struggling to recover from the impact of the uprising and is seeking a lifeline from the International Monetary Fund.
Before the uprising, tourism accounted for 11 percent of economic activity in Egypt and a quarter of foreign exchange earnings, economists estimate.
"We did better than anyone expected despite the problems we had,'' Zaazou told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference on tourism in Cairo. "We had an increase of 17 percent in numbers and a 13 percent increase in generated income compared to 2011.''
Government figures showed 9.8 million tourists came in 2011 and brought in $8.8 billion.
Zaazou said the 2012 figures meant there were 22 percent fewer visitors than in 2010 and they generated 25 percent less revenue.
"We can move close to figures of 2010 by the end of 2013. We hope to pave the way for a comeback,'' he said. ($1 = 6.6203 Egyptian pounds)