The violent protests in Egypt could deal a major blow to the country’s vital tourism industry, a development that could be economically crushing to the already riot-ravaged country.

Tourism accounts for about one-eighth of the jobs in Egypt, including guides for its great pyramids, curators for its national museum, and citizens selling souvenirs.

The country’s Ministry of Tourism estimated that the number of tourists who visited the country in the first half of 2010 increased by 21 percent to seven million people.

It also estimated that tourism revenue for 2010 was up 18 percent to $5.6 billion, about 4.4 percent of the country’s GDP in 2010.

Tourism in the country already has been negatively affected by protestors, who are seeking to remove its president, Hosni Mubarak, from office.

This morning, the British Foreign Office in Cairo advised UK residents to cease all but essential travel to Cairo. Additionally, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is making special arrangements to evacuate Australian tourists on government-chartered flights through Qantas Airways.

The U.S. also began evacuating tourists from the crumbling country this morning. Assistant Secretary of State Janice Jacobs said the U.S. is seeking to first fly U.S. tourists to neighboring Grece, Turkey and Cyprus.

The evacuation plans come shortly after India evacuated about 300 of its citizens from Egypt on India Airways.

A drop in tourism could be another major economic blow to the country.

Moody’s already has cut Egypt’s debt ratings, and the Central Intelligence Agency noted that about one-quarter of the country’s population is living at or near the poverty line, and an additional 21 percent of the population is poor but can meet obtain basic food and supplies requirements.