When Will Tourists Return to Egypt?

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Now that Egypt President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year-rule has ended, one question is when will tourists return to the country? Egypt's economy relies heavily on tourism.

Tour operators and cruise lines made itinerary changes to avoid the political turmoil and demonstrations in Egypt in recent weeks, canceling tours and diverting ships to other countries. Meanwhile, American tourists in Egypt struggled to get home as airlines canceled flights.

The U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA), a group whose members evacuated scores of American guests from Egypt, did a quick poll on Friday to see if the change in leadership would mean an immediate return of tours.

Of the 12 tour operator members who responded, only one indicated they would at this point "arrange travel for anyone who wants to go," a spokeswoman tells AOL Travel News.

One member of the tour operators' association said they would make a decision on resuming trips to Egypt on Monday, once they see what happens over the weekend.

"We do however expect a return to normalcy by the end of the month," the operator said.

Two other operators indicated they were planning to resume tours to Egypt at the end of March, but were monitoring the situation closely.

Another tour operator told the USTOA they plan to resume trips to Egypt on April 1.

"We will be assessing the speed of recovery and resumption of normal services which may allow us to start operating at an earlier date," the operator adds.

October is the target date to resume trips for one tour company.

"We hope to resume in October 2011, but it is far too early to know anything definitively," the operator says.

Others were less sure, saying they were undecided and would take a wait and see approach.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez tells AOL Travel News the cruise company will stick with a decision to pull its Royal Caribbean and Azamara Club Cruises ships from Egypt through June. The ships will instead visit other countries including Turkey and Greece.

Several other cruise lines also canceled calls at Egypt in recent weeks and popular Nile River cruises came to a stand still.

The State Department issued a Travel Warning on Feb. 6, recommending U.S. citizens avoid travel to Egypt. Other countries put out similar warnings.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported monuments and museums around Cairo were deserted. The Pyramids of Giza reopened to tourists on Wednesday after a 12-day closure, but few people came to visit.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo -- next to Tahrir Square in Cairo, where many of the most heated political protests have taken place -- remained shuttered, though officials vowed to reopen "after the strike is finished."

Egypt relies heavily on the tourism industry. Last year, the country had 14.7 million visitors, who generated $11 billion in revenue, according to the Egyptian Tourist Authority in New York. That number is about 11 percent of the total gross domestic product for the country.

Before Mubarak's resignation, tourism officials had predicted a quick turn around once the political turmoil quiets down.

"Looking back to previous crises that hit this industry in the last decade, one can tell that the current crisis, despite all its negative effects on our business, will be and should be the fastest to fade and the least harmful of all," says ElSayed Khalifa, consul-director of the ETA in New York.

Mohamed Kamel, chief executive officer of the Red Sea resort builder Egyptian Resorts Co., told Bloomberg he was optimistic that tourism in Egypt would rebound quickly.

"People are now looking at Egypt as a more competitive destination because of the exchange rate," Kamel tells Bloomberg. "And during crises, more concessions are made to tourists to get business jumpstarted."

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