FEATURE-Bomb attack adds to tourism woes in Egypt

Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:27pm GMT
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By Alaa Shahine and Sarah A. Topol

CAIRO, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Tarek el-Sayyed had no customers at his gift shop in a 14th-century Cairo market where he sat contemplating a difficult future.

Instead of buses ferrying tourists to the Khan el-Khalili market, the plaza outside Sayyed's shop on Monday was filled with police officers, a day after a bomb attack in the area killed a French teenager and wounded at least 20 people.

"Of course it will affect us," he said in front of his shop that sells replicas of ancient Egyptian artefacts. "At this time of the day buses would be bringing tourists here ... but today things are as you can see."

Tourism in Egypt was already feeling the pinch of the global financial crisis as tourists have stayed home.

Across the country, hotel revenues and occupancy rates have fallen, forcing some establishments to dismiss workers or close, according to analysts and industry sources.

The prospect of rising unemployment is daunting for a government that depends on tourism to provide direct and indirect jobs for 12.3 percent of the workforce and to contribute about 7 percent of gross domestic product.

Analysts say unemployment could fuel the same type of social unrest, protests and labour strikes, that Egypt has seen over the past three years when fast economic growth pushed inflation to 24 percent, a 16-year-high.

"We can see that a lot of hotels are laying off employees," said Daniyah Darwish, vice president of equity research at investment bank EFG-Hermes, which forecasts the number of tourists would fall by 18 percent in 2009 to 10.5 million.  Continued...

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