China important tourist market for Mideast, world: UNWTO chief

Updated 2018-05-11 14:11:01 Xinhua

Chinese tourists in Egypt. [Photo by Du Du/For China Daily]

Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Zurab Pololikashvili, said Thursday that China is one of the most important tourist markets not only for the Middle East, but for the whole world.

His remarks came in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on the sidelines of the 44th meeting of the UNWTO Commission for the Middle East and UNWTO Regional Conference, which wrapped up Thursday in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh city, with the theme of "Human Capital Development in Tourism: New Perspectives."

"I think we need more connectivity with China, more promotion in China and I'm sure Egypt will attract more Chinese tourists," Pololikashvili told Xinhua.

The UN official said there are a lot of opportunities to increase the number of Chinese tourists to Egypt and the Middle East, adding that UNWTO and the governments in the region have to identify the needs of Chinese tourists and to facilitate their visit.

Pololikashvili noted Egypt has many attractions such as the pyramids, Alexandria, Luxor, Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, which could attract thousands of tourists, not only from China, but from many other countries.

He revealed that UNWTO and a number of tourism ministers from the Middle East discussed at the meetings ways to boost tourism sector and to attract more tourists to the region.

"Getting more tourists is the main challenge and main goal for us," he said.

Pololikashvili said that tourism is vital for Egypt and the region, adding that UNWTO is expecting a notable increase in the number of tourists in the region in the upcoming three or four years because "world economy is growing very fast."

The number of tourists who visited the Middle East region mounted to 85 million in 2017.

"We are very glad to see that the number of tourists is increasing and we hope this will continue," he said.

Egyptian tourism sector, a major source of national income and foreign currency, has witnessed recession over the past seven years.

In Egypt, the number of tourists declined from 14.7 million in 2010 to about 8 million in 2017 due to political instability and relevant security challenges.

Tourism in Egypt was dealt a heavy blow following the Russian airplane crash in North Sinai in October 2015, after which several countries, including Britain and Russia, suspended their flights to Egypt.

However, experts expect a boom in the business after Russia and Egypt resumed direct flights between the two countries.

"Our goal is to attract 10 million tourists this year, but together with government, we hope we could double this number soon," he said.

According to official statistics, Egypt's tourism revenues jumped 123.5 percent year-on-year to .6 billion in 2017.

However, these figures remain below the benchmark in 2010 when tourists visiting Egypt brought in around .5 billion in revenue.

The WTO secretary-general revealed that his organization appreciates that the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is personally committed to the tourism sector and is supporting tourism development in the country.

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