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Monday, November 17, 1997 Published at 19:04 GMT


Luxor attack could devastate tourist industry

The famed temple of Hatshepsut set the stage for Egypt's latest tourist attack

Monday's attack on tourists at the temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor - where more than 60 tourists were gunned down as they exited their tour bus - could spell disaster for the Egyptian tourist industry.

Luxor is one of Egypt's top tourist attraction, famous for its gigantic Pharaonic-era temples and hundreds of tombs of kings, queens and noblemen, including the King Tutankhamun and Queen Nefertari.

Tourism is very important to the Egyptian economy, bringing in more than 1.5bn per year. But overseas tour operators are likely to view the latest attack near Luxor with great alarm.

Foreign governments issue travel warnings

[ image: The Egyptian Tourist Minister, Mamdouh Al-Beltagui, says tourists should not be deterred]
The Egyptian Tourist Minister, Mamdouh Al-Beltagui, says tourists should not be deterred
Many of the tourists killed were Japanese and Swiss. Hiroshi Sato, an official at the Japanese Embassy in Cairo, said that until more information was available, he was advising Japanese people not to travel in Egypt.

Japanese visits to Egypt have been on the rise in recent years. A spokesman for the Japanese Tourist Board said that 44,500 Japanese tourists visited Egypt in 1995. In 1996, the number rose to 60,200.

The British Foreign Office also has issued a statement warning British citizens not to travel to Luxor in light of Monday's attack. The Foreign Office also is providing an information line about travel to Egypt. The number is: 0171-839 1010.

But the Egyptian Tourist Minister, Mamdouh Al-Beltagui, said in London on Monday that tourists should not be deterred from visiting Egypt.

"Egypt is a huge country," he told the BBC at a tourist fair he was attending in London. "If an accident happens in one place, people can avoid it. In my sense, for the time being, Egypt is not less safe than any other country such as England, Europe or the United States."

"I can't predict at this stage what is going to happen about tourism to the country, but our government is doing all it can to ensure travellers' safety," he added.

But the BBC correspondent in Cairo, Barbara Plett, said she believed that it would be quite difficult to persuade visitors that Egypt was a safe tourist destination.

History of trouble for tourists
[ image: A bus was petrol-bombed in Cairo two months ago]
A bus was petrol-bombed in Cairo two months ago
In recent years, the Egyptian government has successfully played down attacks on tourists, capitalising instead on Egypt's lure as an exotic destination.

But militants have proved that they are still capable of launching headline-grabbing attacks.

Just two months ago, nine Germans and their Egyptian driver were killed when gunmen opened fire on a bus in front of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Two brothers were convicted of the crime and sentenced to death last month. The authorities maintained that the brothers were not part of any organised group.

Although a slight drop in tourists was recorded following the incident, numbers were reported to have stabilised soon after.

The most serious downturn in Egypt's tourist industry took place following a wave of attacks against foreign visitors in 1992 and 1993. Hotels emptied and stayed that way until tourists returned last year in record numbers - 3.1 million according to government statistics.

Armed ambushes have been the hallmark of the Islamic militants. In the past two years, however, they have largely confined their activities to southern Egypt.

Some 1,100 people have been killed since the insurgency began in 1992.

Luxor, however, has been relatively free of attacks, which have usually taken place in Minya or Assiut to the north, and generally on policemen and Coptic Christians.

The Egyptian Tourist Minister, Mamdouh Al-Beltagui, says tourists should not be deterred from visiting Egypt.

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Related Stories

Egyptian radio says 60 killed in Luxor attack

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The tourist attractions of Luxor

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