Egypt: Saudi tourists return to strife-hit country

Tourists at Abu Simbel in Egypt

Saudis are increasingly booking holidays to Egypt in what appears to be the first sign that the country's tourism industry is picking up as relative political stability returns.

According to the Saudi Gazette newspaper, Egypt has long been a favoured holiday destination for Saudi citizens, but since the recent political upheavals they have largely chosen to go elsewhere - and have specifically avoided Cairo. However, one Jeddah-based travel agent confirmed official Egyptian figures that show a rise in the number of Saudis travelling to Egypt.

One frequent traveller said he was now considering taking his first family holiday in Egypt for years. He said that since the Egyptian protests started in 2010, he had only visited Cairo on business, leaving immediately after the job was done, Motea Al-Shanqiti told the Saudi Gazette that "going to Egypt was a risk that I did not want my family to be exposed to... This time, I am going back with my family and planning to spend the whole month of Shawwal [the month after Ramadan] travelling all over Egypt".

Egypt's tourism industry has been hit hard by the political ructions, putting jobs at risk in the four-million-strong sector. According to the Al-Ahram newspaper, overall visitor numbers declined by 22% in April compared to the same period last year, with the biggest fall being in visitors from other Arab states. In an attempt to woo more Saudi tourists, new ferry and direct air services have been introduced this month between the two countries.

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