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Egyptian tourism declines 46 percent in January as Russians stay away

Egypt’s tourism sector continued to falter in January, as the number of tourists visiting Egypt dropped by 46.3 percent year-on-year, according to state statistics agency CAPMAS.

CAPMAS figures show that 363,500 foreign tourists visited Egypt during the month, spending a total of 2.6 million nights in the country – a 62.5 percent decline from January 2015.

Tourist figures have plunged since the October Russian Metrojet plane crash in Sharm el-Sheikh that killed all 224 passengers on board. In that month, tourists numbered 909,400 according to the Central Bank – more than a 60 percent drop in three months.

CAPMAS attributes the decline to the almost complete absence of Russian tourists, citing a 99 percent decline in the number of nights Russians spent in Egypt. Flights from Russia to Egypt have been suspended since the crash. The disaster has also prompted visitors from other regions to stay away – tourist figures from Western Europe declined by 35.2 percent, while the number of Middle Eastern visitors declined by 28.6 percent.

Since 2011, perceptions of instability have harmed Egypt’s crucially important tourism sector, affecting employment and foreign currency figures. The industry showed some improvement in the 2014/15 fiscal year, which ended in June 2015. In that period, the industry saw real year-on-year growth at 19.5 percent and made a positive contribution to GDP growth, according to Ministry of Finance figures. However, revenue declined sharply in fall 2015, after the deadly plane crash and a September incident in which an Egyptian military airstrike on a Mexican tour group killed twelve people.

In a February 24 speech, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appeared to acknowledge for the first time that the crash was the work of terrorists, a claim that had been denied by Egyptian authorities. “Those who struck at tourism in Egypt, why did they strike at it? They struck at it because it was a sector which brought in 14 billion dollars, and we need dollars to purchase many things for Egypt,” he stated in his address.