Arab nations looking to Chinese tourists to revive tourism industry

Published on : Monday, January 25, 2016

Chinese tourists in AustraliaIn a bid to revive tourism sector which has seen a low tide due to the recent terror attacks, the Arab nations are eyeing Chinese visitors.

Last year’s deadly attacks, claimed by Islamic extremists in Tunisia and Egypt, dealt a heavy blow to the tourism industry in North Africa and the Middle East, which had been recovering after the Arab spring unrest. This lead to fall in bookings as foreigners preferred to shun beaches and historic sites across the region citing safety and security concerns.

However, the ray of light remained in the form of rise in Chinese tourist arrivals to Egypt in 2015, thanks to government’s green signal to charter flights from the Asian country, Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said.

The number of Chinese visitors to Egypt more than doubled from 60,000 in 2014 to 135,000 in 2015, he said at a conference on tourism policies in Arab nations at the Madrid international tourism fair Fitur.

Leading to a sharp increase in the number of visitors from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations, Egypt has also boosted promotion efforts in these nations.

In September, eight Mexican tourists were mistakenly killed by Egyptian security forces in the vast Western Desert. In October a Russian airliner crashed in the Sinai desert shortly after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.

But the country is banking on the short memory of global travellers who have been scared off and returned to the country before, most vividly after the Luxor massacre in 1997 in which over 60 people were killed, mostly Swiss and Japanese, he added.

The minister believes ‘2016 will be the year tourists come back to Egypt and our part of the world.’

Morocco too has stepped up its efforts to develop its domestic tourism market, Morocco’s Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad said. The domestic market now accounts for 33 per cent of the nation’s total tourism activity, up from 25 per cent in 2012.

Morocco has been calm for the past decade. Except for one attack against tourists in 2011 in Marrakesh, the kingdom’s biggest tourism centre. But it still suffered a slump in visitors last year after 38 people, mainly British holidaymakers, were gunned down at Tunisia’s seaside resort of Sousse in June.

The Madrid-based United Nations World Tourism Organisation predicts the number of international tourists to the Middle East and North Africa will triple to 195 million in 2030.


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