Egypt dreads Sinai bus bomb impact on tourism

News article, posted 02.19.2014, from Egypt, in:
Egypt dreads Sinai bus bomb impact on tourism (Photo: Al Ahram)

A suicide bombing that killed three South Korean tourists in south Sinai has sent shockwaves through the resorts dotting its pristine coastline, with Egypt's vital tourism industry in the crosshairs of militants.

The bombing of the tour bus on Sunday was claimed by an Al-Qaeda-inspired group that had previously focused its attacks on security forces since the military's ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.

The group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, said in a statement that the bus attack was "part of our economic war against this regime of traitors."

Scores of policemen and soldiers have been killed in attacks claimed by Sinai-based militants.

But Sunday's bombing threatens to hit the military-installed government's efforts to revive the key tourism industry, which accounts for over 11 percent of Egypt's GDP.

The jihadi group "is a threat to tourism and aims to hinder the roadmap," Egyptian newspapers quoted prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi as saying.

Bus driver Fekri Habib said his company has already cancelled two tourist trips to Saint Catherine's desert monastery, one of the south Sinai destinations that South Koreans had visited before their bus was attacked near a border crossing with Israel.

The peninsula's southern coastline, popular among Western tourists for its animated resort towns, had been spared from the violence rocking the country since a popular uprising toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

In the past three years, "south Sinai was doing well in comparison with other areas, Cairo or Luxor for instance," tourism ministry spokeswoman Rasha al-Azayzi told AFP.

Azayzi said 75 percent of tourists to Egypt visited the Red Sea and south Sinai shores, including the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

With its sunny beaches and coral reefs, south Sinai was considered a safe haven isolated from Egypt's turmoil.

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