Hotel occupancy rose to 35-40% in Egypt’s Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada in the first six months of the year, from 20-23% a year earlier, a tourism official said on Tuesday.

In the capital Cairo, hotel occupancy rose to about 45%, from 27% in the first half of 2020, the official told Reuters.

Tourism is an important source of foreign revenue and contributes up to 15% of Egypt’s gross domestic product but was brought to a near standstill by the coronavirus pandemic.

The government had placed a 50% occupancy limit on hotels, restaurants and cultural values to counter the spread of COVID-19, but announced earlier this week that it would raise the limit to 70%.

Egypt’s tourism revenues were between $3.5 billion to $4 billion during the first half of 2021 and the country received about 3.5 million tourists from January to June, Ghada Shalaby, Deputy Minister of Tourism, told Reuters.

The country’s revenues from the vital sector were about $4billion in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, down by 70% from $13.03 billion in 2019.

“We are expecting that numbers of tourists will increase by 45% to 60% during the next period compared with last year,” Shalaby said.

The average spending of a tourist per night is about $95, she added.

Tourism revenue is an important source of foreign currency for Egypt and the industry usually accounts for up to 15% of the country’s gross domestic product