Minister: Tourism is not just about wine and bikinis

Egypt should use its beaches as resources to promote tourism, Minister of Tourism Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour has said. He accused Islamists of granting too much attention to the kind of swim wear worn by tourists and the drinking of wine.

In an interview with Al-Hurra satellite channel on Saturday, Abdel Nour said beach tourism in Egypt provides Western tourists with warm water, beautiful sandy beaches and ample sun.

Following the ouster of ex-President Hosni Mubarak, Islamists won 60 percent of parliament in the first phase of the elections.

Several Salafi leaders have expressed a desire to restrict tourists’ activities in Egypt, where the tourism industry is a major source of income.

Salafis want to bar women from wearing bikinis and stringently restrict the sale of alcohol in Egypt. Some Salafis also want to bar men and women from bathing together.

Abdel Nour said that 14.8 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, generating a revenue equivalent to 12.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. However, the number of tourists visiting Egypt dropped by more than a third in the second quarter of 2011 compared to last year, and tour operators fear tourist will keep away from Egypt due to political instability.

Before the crisis, tourism in Egypt accounted for over a tenth of gross domestic product and employed about an eighth of the workforce.

The target is to increase the number of visiting tourists to 30 million, to generate at least US$25 billion a year, he said. He added that no matter the political orientation of those in power, the tourist industry cannot be discarded.

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