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Egypt's government levies $25 airport tax on tourists despite its struggle to lure them back

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CAIRO - Egyptian authorities have levied a new airport tax on tourists leaving the country, a move that has been criticized as being a further deterrent for vacationers considering the country as a holiday destination, an airport official said Thursday.

The government started applying the roughly $25 fee on ticket purchases through airline companies last month, the official said. Since then, he said airline companies have been passing the charge directly on to customers buying tickets to and from the country, with it appearing as an additional tax on the ticket price. Most foreign visitors to Egypt already pay approximately $15 for an entrance visa, though the cost varies depending on the traveller's nationality.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Egypt's tourism industry has been hit hard by the three years of turmoil since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

From a high of more than 14 million tourists in 2010, only around 9.6 million came to Egypt in 2011. According to the Tourism Ministry, 9.5 million tourists visited Egypt in 2013.

But the Egyptian government is also strapped for cash for upkeep on its travel facilities and famed archaeological sites. Nagy Erian, vice chairman of the tourist hotels division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, said the new fee could be put to good use if it went toward improving the airport's service, and that it is in line with international practices.

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