Terror takes toll on Egypt’s economy: Annual tourism drops to 6.3 million from 21 million

by WorldTribune Staff, January 5, 2017

A drastic drop in tourism revenue combined with an unstable economy is exacting a heavy toll on Egypt’s museums, monuments and antiquities.

As tourists stay away following a series of terror attacks culminating in last year’s apparent explosion downing EgyptAir Flight 84 as it approached Cairo, budgets are shrinking for excavations and restorations. Egyptologist Fayza Haikal said only the minimum can be done just to keep artifacts in a proper state.

German conservator Christian Eckmann works on the restoration of the golden mask of King Tutankhamun at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. /Reuters
German conservator Christian Eckmann works on the restoration of the golden mask of King Tut at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. /Reuters

“It’s catastrophic,” she told AFP.

From 2010 to 2015, the number of tourists visiting Egypt dropped from 21 million to 6.3 million. Revenue from ticket sales to historic sites fell from $220 million to $38 million, AFP reported.

The Cairo government, amid an economic slump with high unemployment and rising inflation, has not been able to contribute the needed financial support to Egyptian monuments and antiquities, which require some 40,000 workers to maintain. Donations from private patrons cannot make up for the lack of government money available.

“It means that institutions like the Egyptian museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, housing treasures from the pharaonic era like the famed golden mask of King Tut, among around 160,000 objects covering a 5,000 year history, have been forced to get creative to stay afloat. The museum stays open late and offers annual passes to encourage locals to visit more often,” according to a Jan. 4 report by Artnet News.

Tourism industry analysts are calling for the opening of more sites that were previously closed to the public.

In November, the Ministry of Antiquities opened the tombs of Nefertari and Seti I in Luxor to private tour groups for a price of around $1,100.

Egypt is hoping for a large boost in tourism from the opening of the $550 million Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza near the Pyramids. The museum will feature 100,000 archaeological artifacts.

That boost, however, won’t come this year. The museum, which has been in the works since 1992, is set for a partial opening in 2018.

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