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No Recovery in Sight for Egypt's Tourism


Scene near one of Egypt's top tourist attractions

Scene near one of Egypt's top tourist attractions

Egypt's transition government inherits a damaged economy. One of the hardest hit sectors is tourism, which accounts for 11 percent of the country's income - hundreds of millions of dollars each day. Those taking the most direct hit are impoverished people - guides, hotel employees and others in service industries.

Camel guide Hassan Hefnawi Abdel Maksoud is wondering how he is going to feed his family. His income has disappeared.

“There is no work at all. People who used to come do not come anymore. The pyramids were closed and now they reopened, but no one comes,” he said.

The recent uprising in Egypt started January 25, prompting thousands of foreign visitors to flee the country.

And they have not returned.

The only visitors these days are locals. Many souvenir shops are shut.

Egypt's Central Bank expects the economy to lose up to $1.5 billion this year.

Abdel Maksoud wonders if he will be able to find other work.

“When there are no tourists, there is no income for me. And when there is no income for me, there is no money to feed the camel. I do not know how I will feed my children and the camel,” he said.

One tour company in Cairo had all of its bookings cancelled for February and March. Still, owner Sami Ghoneim sees good days ahead.

“The number of tourists, I think, will increase due to a lot of factors, which is not just to see the pyramids and the Red Sea. People want to meet the Egyptian people who started a great revolution,” he said.

For now, these images are keeping foreigners away.

Abdel Maksoud and his camel are idle, and he wonders what he is going to do until the foreigners - and their cash - return.

“I had some money saved, but I spent it. What shall I do, steal? I have no money for myself, to support my family or the camel. Let us be patient until this crisis passes,” he said.

Until then, the local tourist guide association held a pep rally to keep spirits up - raise hopes that better days will come soon.

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