New Egypt tourism minister sets out 2020 growth plan

Egypt wants to attract 20 million visitors by 2020, the new tourism minister says

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Egypt hopes to generate $20 billion in revenue from tourism by 2020 by attracting 20 million visitors, new Tourism Minister Khaled Ramy said on Sunday at an international investment conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.

An uprising that toppled leader Hosni Mubarak four years ago hit the economy hard, discouraging investors and tourists and slashing economic growth. Egypt hopes the conference will project an image of stability and help attract billions of dollars.

Ramy told Reuters that goal was part of strategic plans that include creating two new resorts through nearly $1 billion of investment over five years and hiring a private company to run a three-year advertising campaign.

He said he wanted to counteract the negative news of the last few years which has hampered tourism, a major source of revenue and foreign reserves for Egypt.

More than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, dropping to 9.8 million in 2011. They rose the following year to 11.5 million but shrank back to about 10 million last year.

Ramy said he expected numbers to grow by 15 percent this year.

“The message is right on my face: it’s seven o’clock in the morning and we already have this beautiful sunshine here in Sharm El-Sheikh,” he said in a poolside interview at a luxury hotel.

Ramy, 56, was appointed minister this month in a cabinet reshuffle.

He said Egypt was on track to have enough hotel rooms to accommodate 20 million tourists, but needed investment in restaurants and shopping malls.

Egypt will seek investment for two new investment projects, Ramy said: an 8-million-square-meter resort on the Red Sea worth 5 billion Egyptian pounds and a 1-million-square-metre resort on the Mediterranean worth 2.5 billion pounds.

Ramy said the ministry would use its $40 million a year marketing budget to contract a global advertising campaign this summer.

Security is a concern for tourists in Egypt, which is facing an Islamist insurgency based in the northern Sinai that has launched small bombing attacks across the country. Blasts usually target security forces but more recently have hit civilian targets such as restaurants and stores.

Asked what the government was doing to secure tourists, Ramy pointed to heavy security for the weekend conference.

“As you have seen here in Sharm El-Sheikh, I don’t think even a rat from the desert could come in and do anything,” he said.

Security has been tight during the three-day event, attended by kings, heads of state and top officials including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Checkpoints on major roads are manned by machine-gun wielding soldiers in combat gear, while military helicopters buzz overhead. Plainclothes police line more isolated desert roads.

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