SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Egyptian Tourism Minister Rania al-Mashat said Egypt is exerting efforts to attract the largest number of Chinese tourists.
The minister's remarks came in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on the sidelines of the 44th meeting of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Commission for the Middle East and UNWTO Regional Conference, which wrapped up Thursday in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh city.
"China is a very important country and one of the largest exporters of tourism in the world," the minister said, adding that China annually exports about 150 million tourists, spending about 200 billion U.S. dollars.
She stressed that Egypt will make great efforts and is working to provide large facilities to attract more Chinese tourists in the future.
Al-Mashat pointed out that there is coordination and cooperation with the Chinese side on this regard, noting that the role of the Egyptian Tourist Office in Beijing will be activated soon.
"I believe that there will be more Chinese tourists coming in the near future," the minister said.
The Egyptian minister strongly welcomed China's investment in the tourism sector in Egypt, stressing there are many tourism opportunities for Chinese investors.
Egypt is a favorable attraction to hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists each year for its historical sites and sunny sandy beaches.
According to Egyptian statistics, China has become the fourth largest exporter of tourists to Egypt since the beginning of 2017.
Meanwhile, the minister said that the tourism sector at the international level is growing due to the increase in the economic growth of a large number of economies.
This certainly means that there will be a demand for investment in the tourism sector, both regarding tourist facilities and other tourism activities, she explained.
She pointed out that Egypt has witnessed in 2017 a remarkable increase in tourist numbers, which is a promising indication for an improvement of the sector.
Official Egyptian statistics reveal that Egypt's tourism revenues jumped 123.5 percent year-on-year to 7.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2017.
However, these figures remain below the benchmark in 2010 when tourists visiting Egypt brought in around 12.5 billion dollars in revenue.
"We are keen to increase the quality and efficiency of our tourist destinations as well as increasing investment in the human factors in the tourism sector so that tourist experience in Egypt would be a happy one and thus tourists would visit Egypt more than once," the minister added.
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, including two mass uprisings that toppled two presidents, forcing several countries to ban their citizens from traveling to Egypt for safety reasons.
Tourism in Egypt was dealt a heavy blow following the Russian airplane crash in North Sinai in October 2015, after Russia suspended its direct flights to the country and some other nations including Britain suspended flights to Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh.
However, Egyptian officials expect a boom in the business after Russia and Egypt resumed direct flights between the two countries in April.
"The resumption of flights between Moscow and Cairo is very important for us and we are optimistic," the minister said.
Al-Mashat noted that Egypt is paying great attention to develop the tourism sector as it is one of the most important economic sectors for the Middle East.
She also said Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi was keen to meet Secretary General of the UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, before the meetings kicked off in Sharm el-Sheikh.
President Sisi stressed Egypt is always looking forward to boosting cooperation with the UNWTO in a way that would support tourism, which is a key sector for Egypt, the minister added.