LUXOR, Egypt, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Egypt is eager to tap into the Chinese market to revive its ailing tourism industry, Governor of Egypt's Luxor Governorate Mohamed Badr told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Badr noted that the number of Chinese tourists has already notably increased after the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Egypt in early 2016.
The Chinese president toured Luxor during his visit to Egypt, and the reports of this visit by major Chinese media outlets helped attract more Chinese tourists to visit Luxor, the governor said.
Badr said the inflow of Chinese tourists has somehow revived the tourism business in Luxor, which is a favorite attraction for tourists after the Pyramids.
Tourism in Egypt, a major source of its national income and foreign currency reserve, was dealt a further blow by the Russian airplane crash in North Sinai in October, 2015 after which several countries, including Britain and Russia, suspended their flights to Egypt.
This aggravated the recession in the country's already ailing tourism sector due to political instability.
Even before the Russian plane crash, Egypt suffered a sharp decline in tourists due to three years of political turmoil, including two mass uprisings that toppled two presidents, forcing several countries to ban their citizens from traveling to Egypt for safety reasons.
Luxor, once an ancient Egyptian capital, suffered similarly as other Egyptian tourist cities.
Amid the dire conditions, Egypt now pins big hope on China, a growing tourist market, to revive its tourism sector.
"We are focusing more on the Chinese market. I have given orders to add Chinese language to all direction signs on roads and tourist sites across Luxor," Badr said.
The governor said he has a general impression that the Chinese tourists, who are very well educated, come to Luxor because they want to learn more about the history of ancient Egypt.
Official figures from the Egyptian Embassy in Beijing show that the number of Chinese tourists who visited Egypt in the first five months this year nearly doubled from last year.
A total of 147,000 Chinese tourists visited the most populous Arab country from January to May 2017, marking a 94 percent rise from the same period last year.
China has become the fourth largest exporter of tourists to Egypt since the beginning of 2017.
Statistics also show that Chinese tourists spent 850,000 tourist nights in Egypt from January to May 2017, compared to 161,000 tourist nights in the same period last year.
"We have some four sister cities in China and in the next months we will have two more Chinese cities," the governor said, adding that he hopes to have more direct flights between Luxor and Chinese cities.
Badr noted that he is trying to market Luxor as a tourist attraction by giving Chinese tourists a good impression so every visitor would have a good story to tell back home.
Badr stressed that Luxor is totally safe, as his team is working hard to increase security and tourist facilities.
"We have also developed the road network in the province. I expect more tourists, mainly Chinese, to come to Luxor this year," he said.
Speaking about a Chinese initiative to construct an opera house in Luxor, Badr said a protocol of cooperation would be signed soon.
"We have already allocated a piece of land for the opera in front of the Nile," he said, adding that it will be jointly funded by culture ministries in China and Egypt.
In January 2016, Egypt's cabinet approved a Chinese initiative to establish a new opera house in Luxor, which was proposed during the visit of President Xi to the historic city.
"I think it is very important to establish such a cultural and artistic minaret in Luxor. I believe that we will know soon when the construction work will start," Badr said.
The governor predicted that it will take 18 to 20 months to finish building the opera house.
"We have connections in history, we are the cradles of civilization; we are developing the world together," Badr said, referring to the friendship between Egypt and China.