CAIRO, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- As Egypt's tourism industry has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, officials placed high hopes on Chinese tourists to help revive Egypt's tourism sector.
Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Zurab Pololikashvili, said on Tuesday that Chinese tourists can help boost Egypt's tourism sector which has slumped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"China is a very important market, not only for Egypt but also for all Europe and other destinations," Pololikashvili, who is on an official visit to Egypt, told Xinhua.
Pololikashvili arrived in Egypt on Saturday for an official visit, during which he discussed with the country's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and other officials recent prominent tourism projects in Egypt amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The problem with Chinese tourists now is that they have to be quarantined for two weeks once they are back home, he said, adding that this rule has yet to be changed.
"I'm sure once it opens, the international flights with China will resume and Chinese tourists will be back," Pololikashvili told Xinhua during a tour with Egyptian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Khaled al-Anany, at the construction site of Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza.
Egypt, which has so far registered 97,478 COVID-19 infections and 5,280 deaths, resumed international flights in early July after it lifted a partial curfew that had been in place since late March and reopened restaurants, cafes, theaters, and cinemas, as well as hotels, museums, and archeological sites, all with limited capacity.
About 600 hotels nationwide were allowed to reopen as they had met the safety protocols announced by the authorities and pledged to operate at a reduced occupancy of 50 percent.
The North African country, which has been witnessing a sharp decline in daily COVID-19 deaths and infections, also decided to reopen archeological sites, hotels, and museums in the monument-rich city of Luxor for tourists from the beginning of September.
All travelers coming to Egypt will have to present a recent PCR test that proves they are free from COVID-19 as of Sept. 1.
Earlier Tuesday, al-Anany said Egypt has received more than 136,000 tourists since it reopened its seaside resorts to international flights and foreign tourists on July 1, after a three-month halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
China is the world's largest market for outbound travel with its outbound travelers skyrocketing from 4.5 million in 2000 to 150 million in 2018, according to a 2019 World Tourism Organization report.
Egypt is a favorable attraction to hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists each year for its historical sites and sunny sandy beaches.
Egypt's Official statistics revealed that China has become the fourth largest exporter of tourists to Egypt since the beginning of 2017.
More than half a million Chinese tourists visited Egypt in 2018, according to the Chinese embassy in Cairo.
"China is one of the largest exporters of tourism in the world ... Egypt is one of the best attractions for thousands of Chinese," Deputy Minister of Tourism and Antiquities for Tourism Affairs, Ghada Shalaby, told Xinhua.
She noted that Chinese tourists are unique because they favor both beach tourism and cultural tourism, unlike most of the tourists who prefer to spend most of their stay in seaside resort cities.
"China exports a large number of tourists every year, we need to get a bigger share ... I invite the Chinese people to visit Egypt and I'm sure they will love it," the official said.
Shalaby reiterated that Egypt is fully ready to receive millions of tourists and the authorities, in cooperation with the private sector, are carrying out all the anti-COVID-19 precautionary measures to guarantee the safety of tourists and the workers of the tourism sector alike.
The tourism industry, a key pillar of Egypt's economic revenues and hard currency, had started to show signs of recovery after years of political turmoil since the 2011 uprising that toppled late president Hosni Mubarak. However, it has suffered a heavy blow with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2019, Egypt registered a record 13 billion U.S. dollars in tourism revenues. Enditem