15 Nisan 2011 Cuma

Mideast tourism signals recovery, officials say

Tour operators direct their customers to Sharm el-Sheikh and Urgada Al Bahr al Ahmar in the south.

Tour operators direct their customers to Sharm el-Sheikh and Urgada Al Bahr al Ahmar in the south.
The uprising and political turmoil in Egypt and Tunisia are no longer threats to regional tourism as the demand started increasing recently, sector representatives and officials from Middle Eastern countries said.

According to tour operators attending the East Mediterranean International Travel & Tourism Exhibition, or EMITT, in Istanbul, the forecast for a “domino effect” after the unrest in North Africa did not come to fruition.

“Egypt’s tourism sector has been severely damaged,” Edward Moufarrej, senior tour operator of leading Egyptian travel company NTS Group told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“Egypt has lost nearly $10 million” due to the protests, he said, adding that the tour operators have been mainly directed to Sharm el-Sheikh and Urgada Al Bahr al Ahmar in the south. “We have started to receive bookings from European countries recently.”

And lately bookings from Turkey have been high, he said.

Mohammed Bachar, director of Tunisian national tourism board told the Daily News that their “Jasmine Revolution” took only 15 days and has been one of the softest ones in the world.

Despite the decrease in the number of tourists during the peak times of the protests, the Tunisian tour operators have started hosting tour groups again in Tunisia since Tuesday, Bachar said.

A delegation from the Turkish Association of Travel Agents, or TURSAB, visited Tunisia and promised to increase the number of Turkish tourist visiting Tunisia to 500,000 from nearly 20,000 as of end of last year, he said.
Turkey’s TAV, operator of two airports in Tunisa, is planning to invest in a hotel project in Hamamed, a popular destination for water sports, he added.

Head of Syrian Turkish Relations Office Majdi Sukkar said Dedeman, a Turkish hotel chain has signed an agreement with a Russian firm to operate its third hotel in western province of Latakia for nearly $80 million.
According to him, Rixos Hotel is also planning to buy three hotels in total in Damascus and Latakia.
“The deals might total around $150 million,” he said.

Greeks call on Turks

Litsa Lykou, a local administrator of Greek’s Chios Island, told the Daily News that he expects more Turkish tourist in the long run. “We already waived the visas for green passport holders who are mostly state officials,” said Lykou, adding that the Greek government has been working on a new regulation to allow blue passport holders Turkish citizens to visit Greek Islands for two days.

“After the economic crisis in Greece, accommodation costs on Greek Islands are way cheaper than before,” said Lykou.

Yemeni minister invites Turkish investors 

Omar A. Babelgheith, deputy minister of tourism development of Yemen, the honorary guest country of the international exhibition, said the protests in his country were relatively minor and have not affected the tours.
“The opportunities are great in our country, especially considering the seven giant projects we have ongoing,” he said.

“Turks are welcome to construct hotels in Yemen,” told Babelgheith, adding that projects will be composed of six locations by the Red Sea including Al-murd Island and El-Hudeyde Port and one in the southern province of Lahej by the Gulf of Aden.

He said each project would be on at least 12,000 square meters and the government would support the investing firms.

“I believe Turkish investors would consider this to be a great opportunity,” said Babelgheith.

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