Acknowledging the importance of tourism to Egypt’s economy, the tourism minister has declared that bikinis and booze are “welcome” in the nation ruled by a party linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
While some segments of the Egyptian population, including conservative Salafist Muslims, are seeking bans on alcohol and revealing swimsuits, Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said the government won’t acquiesce to those wishes.
"Bikinis are welcome in Egypt and alcohol is still being served," Zaazou told a news conference in the United Arab Emirates. “"We had talks with these Salafi groups and now they understand the importance of the tourism sector, but still you have some individuals that are not from the leadership saying these things.”
Zaazou, who is not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, said Egypt has a goal of increasing its number of tourists by at least 20 percent from 2012 levels.
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The tourism minister noted that Egypt’s tourism numbers have taken a hit since 2011, when revolution swept the country and President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power. Elections saw the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic faction in Egyptian politics.
In 2010, 14.7 million people visited Egypt and $12.5 billion was spent in the country, according to the minister. But the nation saw only 9.8 million visitors in 2011, generating $8.8 billion in tourism dollars.
Tourism figures rebounded a bit in 2012, with 11.5 million tourists visiting Egypt; they spent $10 billion.
In about 20 years, the country has a goal of hosting 30 million tourists who generate $25 billion for Egypt.
Egypt has taken steps to increase security in resort areas, including setting up cameras that are connected to the tourism ministry’s website so the public can monitor them.
"We want to show people that Egypt is safe, and the best way to show this is by live streaming,” Zaazou said. “The next step will be to have these images shown on big screens in public squares in Paris or New York."