INTERVIEW-Egypt to offer incentives for low-cost airlines – minister
A tourist poses for a picture with the Sphinx at the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo October 19, 2011. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi
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BERLIN: Egypt plans to announce incentives for low-cost airlines such as easyJet and Germany’s Air Berlin and Condor to help combat a slide in tourist arrivals, its tourism minister said in an interview.

“We already have a programme for tour operators that have flights, but we never had a programme for airlines alone,” Hisham Zaazou told Reuters on the sidelines of the ITB travel fair on Wednesday.

Visitors to Egypt‘s beaches and ancient sites bring in business which accounts for 11.5 percent of the country’s economy.

However, the sector has suffered since a 2011 uprising that triggered years of political turmoil and the suspected bombing of a Russian tourist plane in Sinai in October, which killed all 224 people on board.

The government has been offering tour operators an incentive of $30 per seat on aircraft on which between 60 and 90 percent of seats have been filled.

Zaazou said it was not yet clear whether the new programme for commercial airlines would pay a certain amount per seat on planes or whether it could offer alternate incentives such as lower handling fees at airports.

“I will announce that (programme) very soon, maybe towards the end of the ITB when I meet with everybody and listen to everybody,” he said in the interview, held in a chauffeured car on the way from the city of Berlin to the fair grounds, where the ITB is being held through March 13.

The number of tourists coming to Egypt fell around 6 percent to 9.3 million in 2015 from a year earlier due to a drop following the plane crash in October, while receipts slid to $6.1 billion from $7.2 billion, he said.

That is a far cry from around $12.5 billion in annual receipts Egypt earned before the 2011 uprising which scared away tourists and foreign investors.

Zaazou said arrivals in the first couple of months of 2016 were down 30 to 40 percent compared with a year earlier and said he did not expect to see a significant improvement before the second half of the year.

“If we can stabilise the (2016) number around where we were last year, around 9 million, I will be happy. We can then enter 2017 on better grounds and make up for lost time,” he said.

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