CAIRO, Jul 12 (Aswat Masriya) – Tourism revenues fell in the first quarter of the current year to record its lowest level since 1998 amid a weak flow of foreign currency, Moody's Investors Service said.
According to the report published on Jul. 6, tourism revenues fell to $551 million in the first quarter of 2016, the lowest since March 1998 and much lower than the third-quarter 2010 peak of $3.6 billion.
The drop was partly due to the Russian plane crash that occurred in October 2015 over the Sinai Peninsula, Moody's said, adding that the crash "is suspected to be the result of a terrorist attack and shook tourists' confidence."
Egypt's balance of payments position remained weak by the end of fiscal year 2015/2016 as the overall balance-of-payments deficit more than tripled to $3.6 billion from $1 billion, according to data published by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) on Jul. 3.
Moody's stated that the widening deficit "reflects underlying structural weaknesses and increases external vulnerability risks."
Suez Canal revenues also suffered from weak global trade and remained in the $1.2 - $1.4 billion range per quarter since late 2010.
This comes despite the inauguration of an $8 billion expansion of the canal last year by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The expansion aimed to double daily traffic and increase annual revenue to more than $13 billion by 2023.
The canal's revenues are considered one of Egypt's main sources of foreign currency. Egypt has been struggling to revive its economy since a 2011 uprising scared away tourists and foreign investors, other main sources of hard currency.
Reserves tumbled to $16.5 billion in February from around $36 billion before the uprising. In June, net foreign reserves inched up to $17.546.
"However, despite the uptick in net international reserves, and the likely improvement in the balance of payments during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2016, Egypt's external payments position remains fragile," Moody's concluded in its report.
Egypt has been witnessing a foreign currency crisis due to pressures on its reserves as a result of a weakening tourism sector in addition to the decline in Suez Canal revenues.