Egyptian Tourism And The American Dollar

By EWI EXCLUSIVE | by J. Millard Burr
Sunday, October 16th, 2011 @ 4:34AM

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(September 13, 2011)

In August Mohamed Saad al-Katatny, Secretary General of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Freedom and Justice Party, sent a shiver of fear through his nation’s tourist sector when he announced, “We need to place regulations on tourists wishing to visit Egypt.”  Katatny specifically mentioned strictures on beach tourism and the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

The importance of tourism to the Egyptian economy is obvious to anyone who has ever visited the nation.  In a normal year it will account for 11% of GDP, and the sector provides employment for one in nine Egyptians.  In 2000, tourism receipts accounted for $4.3 billion, thanks to the spending of 5.3 million visitors.  A decade later, tourism receipts had ballooned to $11.5 billion, with 14 million arrivals.

The chaos that attended the “Arab Spring”, and the uncertainty that has characterized its aftermath, have had a profoundly negative impact on Egypt’s tourist industry.  For the first half of 2011 it has been reported that tourism receipts are down forty percent.  And recent events portend nothing better for the rest of the year. In sum, the “Arab Spring” introduced an Arab depression in Egypt, and a turnaround is not expected soon.

In an entirely unexpected way, the loss of tourist dollars strengthens America’s hand in Egypt — should Washington choose to play it. As conditions deteriorate in the Sinai Peninsula, as Egyptian public safety entities were incapable of turning back an attack on the Embassy of Israel by a small mob that reportedly included members of the al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, (listed by the US Department of State as a terrorist organization), perhaps it is well to recall that according to annual government reports the United States provides Egypt $1.3 million a year in military aid in the expectation that Egypt will keep the peace with Israel.  In addition, it sends $250 million in economic aid. It also provides untold hundreds of millions in excess military hardware.  It helps Egypt with the production of the M1A1 Abrams battle tank, and Lockheed Martin sends its F16C/D fighter aircraft to Egypt. For nearly thirty years Washington has provided $250 million annually for the Multinational Force and Observers that has patrolled the Sinai in the aftermath of the Camp David accords. Finally, Egypt benefits from access to the IBRD and American support in the IMF, and God only knows how many American tourist dollars are spent in Egypt every year.

Despite its puissance, America’s foreign policy is shrouded in mystery.  Washington seems to be waiting on events for purposes that are not clear. It does seem to be another example of leading from the rear.

J. Millard Burr, a Fellow at the Economic Warfare Institute, authored with Robert Collins, Alms for Jihad, Revolutionary Sudan, and many other publications, and is a former State Department official.

Categories: Middle East Conflicts, Muslim Brotherhood

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