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Egypt to Auction Loads of Tourist Land
October 31, 2012

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Egypt's tourism minister announced an expansive program to rebuild tourism to the country, with the promise that the government will put 1 million square miles up for auction.

The auctions will begin by the end of the year and continue through 2013, with the target being a total tourist visitation of 14.5 million people, which the country achieved before the 2011 uprising that led to the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak. In 2010, the tourist take was $12.5 billion. Egypt aims to exceed that total in 2013, said Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou. Some sites to be auctioned are existing Red Sea resorts; others are empty land.

The country is, for the most part, as stable as it once was, with occasional unrest in Cairo's Tahrir Square being the obvious exception. But continuing uncertainty over the extent to which the majority Islamic government will incorporate religious prohibitions into the laws of the land has kept many tourists away.

Tourism normally accounts for 10 percent of Egypt's economic activity. The tourist industry has been particularly hard-hit in the past two years, and new construction has stalled. Zaazou said that auctions were aimed at increasing production and revenues. Tourist numbers are up this year but do not approach 2010 numbers.

Zaazou said that the government's goal for 2020 was a yearly total of 30 million.

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