Egypt tourism takes massive hit amid unrest

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Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said Saturday that no other archaeological sites were exposed to attacks and that security measures at museums and historic sites nationwide were boosted, state news agency MENA reported.
 
The fresh hit to the tourism industry began when millions rose up against former president Mohammed Morsi at the end of June. But the troubles date back even farther — to the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.
 
Tourism is one of Egypt's largest industries, employing 2.83 million professionals, according to the Egyptian Tourism Federation, a non-governmental group. That doesn't include informal workers.
 
In 2011, the industry generated an average of 11.3% of Egypt's GDP with receipts that year valued at $8.7 billion, the federation said. In 2011, the number of visitors to Egypt dropped by a third from the previous year. The industry improved slightly in 2012 and saw an uptick of visitors in the beginning of 2013, according to official statistics, but was far from making a full recovery, particularly in Cairo.
 
The continuing downturn is devastating for many Egyptians who work as tour guides, sell souvenirs such as papyrus and perfumes, or offer horse rides into the desert.
 
"I don't have money," said Mahmoud Al-Houry, 21, holding the reins of a horse and hoping tourists would come Saturday. "The horses don't eat."
 
The tourism situation is worse now than it was in 2011, said Martha Kjoell, a Norwegian volunteer who provides medicine and food for horses in Giza. "It's a disaster, really."
 
Most don't have job alternatives. Unemployment is up, the economy has been in steady decline and over the past two years there has been a halt in foreign and domestic investment.
 
"I have a lot of people who come to me and say, 'I can't feed my horse, please help me,' " Kjoell said.
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