Egypt eyes slow return for tourism after dire 2020

Egypt's tourism sector is eyeing a gradual recovery in 2021, after seeing revenues plunge by nearly 70% because of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

The country boasts some of the world’s greatest tourist attractions, but severe restrictions on travel meant the industry took a big hit.

Tourists visiting Egypt sank to 3.5 million last year from 13.1 million in 2019, leaving hotels just 10-15% full compared to a year earlier.

Officials have been unveiling new archaeological discoveries in an effort to revive visitor numbers.

The opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum next to the pyramids has also been delayed until later this year, to entice tourists to return.

Tourism accounts for up to 15% of Egypt's national output, and is a major source of foreign currency.

Mohamed Farouq is chief executive of travel agency Egypt Express.

"Everything heals. The tourism sector will heal, but this of course will be incremental. In 2021, with the vaccine, recovery will be incremental. It will be slow, not in the fast way that is expected, until this virus is totally controlled."

Egypt plans to start COVID-19 vaccinations this month after approving a vaccine made in China, but it was unclear how quickly the programme could be rolled out.