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Egypt: Sinai bombing raises worries on tourism

By Hamza Hendawi

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 17 2014 1:57 p.m. MST

It is not immediately known if Sunday's attack marks the start of a militant campaign against tourism. Egypt's militants targeted tourists in the 1990s, trying to cripple the economy as they waged an insurgency to topple Mubarak's government. Security forces ruthlessly crushed the campaign by the end of the decade.

The last major attacks on tourists came in a string of militant bombings against resorts in southern Sinai — including in Taba — between 2004 and 2006, killing about 120 people. But the tourism industry quickly rebounded.

This time, however, the industry is already deeply weakened, particularly in the Nile Valley, which was the traditional attraction for tourists with its wealth of pharaonic antiquities.

Cairo, home to the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx and the famed Egyptian Museum, sees few visitors. The past three years have seen repeated eruptions of violence. Since Morsi's ouster, nearly daily protests by his supporters often turn into clashes with police.

In the southern Nile Valley, the ancient city of Luxor — site of several monumental pharaonic temples and the tomb of King Tutankhamen — has been eviscerated the past three years. The past week had seen a hopeful sign, with direct charter flights from London and Paris to the city resuming after a two-year halt. The city is currently hosting an international Taekwando tournament.

But even with the partial revival, hotel occupancy in Luxor remains under 30 percent.

"We were satisfied with this percentage and started to believe that tourism is coming back. But, after yesterday's attack, I am pessimistic," said Mohammed Othman, deputy chairman of the city's tourism chamber.

"It's too early to see an immediate impact on tourism ... but it will definitely affect tourism in the coming period," he said.

Associated Press reporters Jung-Yoon Choi in Seoul, South Korea, and Mariam Rizk in Cairo contributed to this report.

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