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Chinese, Russians Boost Middle East Tourism

The Mideast region as a whole drew 58 million foreign tourists in 2017. The Mideast region as a whole drew 58 million foreign tourists in 2017.

Chinese and Russian visitors boosted Middle Eastern tourism last year, following a 2016 slump as Europeans gave the area a wide berth on security fears, the United Nations World Tourism Organization reported.

The Mideast region as a whole drew 58 million foreign tourists in 2017, a 4.8% rise on the previous year, the Madrid-based UNWTO said in its latest figures released midweek.

Attacks on tourist sites in Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey in recent years particularly hit the industry, AFP reported.

In the case of Egypt, tourist numbers soared 55% last year, even as European numbers dipped, with Chinese and visitors from Egypt's neighbors taking their place.

"The European market, including Russia, accounted for almost 80% [of tourists] but now, 52%," said Hesham El Demeiry, the head of the Egyptian tourist authority.

"Chinese and Indian visitors rose from 5% to 12% while tourists from Egypt's neighbors doubled their share from 15% to 30%."

Turkey, meanwhile, is back in business after the fallout from the July 2016 coup saw visitor numbers slide by a third, before a similar rise last year.

Ankara is out to keep on attracting more visitors from Russia—whose tourists poured in during 2017—as well as neighbors, including Iran and Ukraine.

The downside, according to Turkish tour operator Ahmet Okay, is that newcomers are likely to spend fewer tourist dollars than their EU or US counterparts.

Tunisia is also on the way back, thanks to a surge in Russian and Chinese visitors with a 23% rise in visitors last year over 2016.

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