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Egypt hails record tourist numbers despite regional conflict

Tourists at the Temple of Hathor, in Dendera, Egypt. 7.1m people visited the country in the first half of 2024 Alamy via Reuters
Tourists at the Temple of Hathor, in Dendera, Egypt. 7.1m people visited the country in the first half of 2024
  • First half of 2024 breaks record
  • 2023 numbers just short of 15m
  • Grand Egyptian Museum to open

Egypt received a record number of tourists during the first two quarters of 2024 despite ongoing conflict in the region.

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said on Monday that 7.1 million tourists visited the country in the first half of the year, breaking the previous record for the same period of 6.9 million in 2010.

The visitors in the first half of 2024 stayed a total of 70.2 million nights and spent $6.6 billion, compared to 67.6 million tourist nights and $6.3 billion spent in the first half of 2023, the ministry said.

Last year was a record year for Egypt tourism with visitor numbers falling just shy of the ministry’s 15 million people target.

Egypt has prioritised an increase of tourist numbers, who provide valuable foreign exchange to its creaking economy, aiming to reach 30 million annual visitors by 2030. 

The ministry has said it will oversee a large-scale investment programme that includes doubling the number of hotel rooms by 2028 to 420,000. It has also said the new $1.5 billion Grand Egyptian Museum will open to the public this summer.

Ahmed Issa, the tourism minister, told reporters in May that the ministry had reduced its targets for 2024 in light of the war in Gaza and tensions in the Red Sea, but was still aiming for between 15.5 million and 16.5 million visitors.

Visitors from Arab countries in particular have increased, growing 54 percent year on year in the first four months of 2024.

Despite the ongoing tensions, tourism across various Middle Eastern markets is up compared to last year. In the first quarter of 2024, Dubai recorded an 11 percent year-on-year increase in visitor numbers, while Saudi Arabia recorded 3 million monthly visitors for the first time during the same period. 

Arrivals in Morocco during the first quarter of this year were also up 13 percent compared to the previous year, reaching 3.3 million visitors. 

In markets more directly affected by conflict, tourism has dropped considerably. In Lebanon, visitor numbers for the first quarter of 2024 were down 13 percent compared to 2023. 

In Israel, just 400,000 tourists arrived during the first five months of this year compared to almost 2 million during the first five months of 2023, a drop of around 80 percent.

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