Between January and November 2003, more than 273,000 French vacationers travelled to Egypt, an increase of 10% as compared with the same period in 2002, a spokeswoman for the Egyptian Tourism Board in Paris said.
 
In November alone, the number of French nationals planning trips to Egypt rose by 51.3% to some 32,000, as compared with the same period the year before.

Some 40% of French tourists choose seaside Egyptian vacation resorts like Sharm al-Sheikh, where the Flash Airlines charter jet went down on Saturday, killing all 148 people on board, most of them French nationals.
 
The rest of the French citizens travelling to Egypt favour cultural tours, such as cruises along the river Nile, which are on offer right now for prices as low as $290 a person for an eight-day trip with meals.

Divers are not the only ones attracted to the crystal waters of the Red Sea: French families are also flocking to the country's beachfront vacation spots in increasing numbers, the Egyptian Tourist Board said.

Majority European tourists

European tourists make up 52% of the two million visitors to Egypt each year, with the French in 4th place after the Italians, Germans and British.

September 11 attacks have badly 
affected tourism in Egypt

Egypt's tourist industry has taken a hit in recent years following the 1997 terror attack in the ancient city of Luxor that left 58 tourists dead.

Conflict in the Middle East, the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and the war in Iraq have also adversely affected tourism in the region.

But according to the office of France's state secretary for tourism Leon Bertrand: "Egypt has re-emerged as a trendy winter vacation destination."

"After the Germans, the French were the first ones to return to Egypt after the Luxor attack," the French officials said.

Jump in demand

French tour operator FRAM, which had placed 125 clients on the flight that crashed on Saturday, said it had recorded at least a 50% jump in demand for Egyptian holidays since October, as compared to last winter.

"Half of all French divers who go abroad go to Egypt, which offers unbeatable quality for the price"

Spokesman
Nouvelles Frontiers tours operator

For its part, operator Nouvelles Frontieres said its winter bookings had regained levels seen before the September 11 attacks, and were up 75% as compared with last winter.

"Half of all French divers who go abroad go to Egypt, which offers unbeatable quality for the price," said a spokesman for the group.
 
Industry professionals say mild weather and the easy-to-overcome one-hour time difference between France and Egypt also helps lure French holidaymakers.

As an example of Egypt's growing popularity, French leisure group Club Med - which now only has one Egyptian location in Luxor - is planning to open a vacation village on the Red Sea in the spring.