Egypt tourist numbers jump 70% in Q3 despite Sinai insurgency

CAIRO - A total of 2.77 million tourists visited Egypt in the third quarter of 2014, official figures show, a jump of 70 per cent compared to the same period last year despite an Islamist insurgency in North Sinai.

The figure brought the total number of visitors this year to 7.27 million up to the third quarter, welcome news in an industry hammered by three years of political turmoil.

At the same time a year ago, much of Egypt was under curfew and many foreign countries had issued travel warnings due to the army's removal of President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013 and its crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters, when many hundreds were killed in one of the bloodiest periods of Egypt's modern history

Although political calm has for the most part returned to the country, the government faces a growing Islamist insurgency based mainly in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Suez Canal.

Officials say the insurgency is contained to a small corner of Sinai far from the popular beach resorts further south.

But the tourist industry suffered a blow in February when a coach carrying Korean tourists was bombed near Taba in southern Sinai, not far from an Israeli border crossing often used by vacationers.

Tourism is a main source of foreign currency for Egypt but it was badly hit after the uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and then again following the army's overthrow of Mursi.

Tourism revenues, once peaking at $12.5 billion a year, were less than half that in 2013 at $5.9 billion. They dropped to around $3 billion in the first half of 2014, when 4.5 million tourists visited.