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| 08 March, 2018

INTERVIEW-Egypt's new tourism minister reviews airline incentives

Egypt's tourism industry has suffered in the years of turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising

Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al Anany speaks during the announcement of the discovery of the tomb of Amenemhat, a goldsmith from the New Kingdom, at the Draa Abu-el Naga necropolis near the Nile city of Luxor, south of Cairo, Egypt, September 9, 2017.

Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al Anany speaks during the announcement of the discovery of the tomb of Amenemhat, a goldsmith from the New Kingdom, at the Draa Abu-el Naga necropolis near the Nile city of Luxor, south of Cairo, Egypt, September 9, 2017.

REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

BERLIN  - Egypt is reviewing a system of incentives for airlines that were put in place to bring back foreign visitors, the new tourism minister said on Thursday.

Egypt's tourism industry, a crucial source of hard currency, has suffered in the years of turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising, as well as from the suspected bombing of a Russian plane in Sinai in 2015, which killed all 224 people on board.

Cairo has been offering airlines such as easyJet and tour operators such as TUI and Thomas Cook incentives to bring in more tourists.

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"Between now and June, we'll be evaluating the success of that program," Rania al-Mashat, named minister in January, told Reuters on the sidelines of the ITB travel trade fair in Berlin.

"It has been going very well, but we may revisit some of its parameters, based on feedback from our different stakeholders."

Egypt currently pays $4,000 for every flight to Hurghada or Marsa Alam that is at least 80 percent full, and for flights to Sharm el-Sheikh on which at least 65 percent of seats are filled. Airlines receive higher incentives if they offer many flights to an Egyptian destination. The programme is due to expire in October.

In addition, Egypt has invested in airport security.

Tourism accounts for around 11 percent of Egypt's economy. The number of foreign visitors, mostly seeking out beaches or ancient sites, jumped 54 percent to 8.3 million in 2017, although this was still well down on the 14.7 million who came in 2010. Receipts more than doubled, to $7.6 billion.

Mashat said that bookings through Easter were "quite strong" and that she expected 2018 arrivals to exceed last year's figure, though she declined to give a precise forecast.

She said bookings in the first quarter showed tourists were coming from more places, with numbers from Poland, China and Austria all up.

(Editing by Kevin Liffey) ((maria.sheahan@thomsonreuters.com; +49 69 7565 1286; Reuters Messaging: maria.sheahan.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))