Al-Ahram Weekly On-line   Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
2 - 8 November 2000
Issue No. 506
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

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GE Medical sets up shop

GENERAL Electric Medical Systems (GEMS) has set up shop in Egypt. Representatives of the company announced this week the opening of the first GEMS office in the Middle East. The 57-man operation will provide technical support for the Middle East, coordinating with other General Electric (GE) offices in Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus and Syria.

According Hisham El-Azem, general manager of GEMS for the Middle East and Africa, the decision to open an office in Egypt stems from the fact that GEMS customer base has grown to a point that justifies investing locally.

Habib Nehme, general manager of GEMS Egypt, said that the new office will work closely with doctors, hospital and clinics, providing them with advice and servicing equipment.

GEMS is only one of 10 GE businesses that produce aircraft engines, appliances, power systems as well as transportation systems.

GEMS global operations accounted for US$7.4 billion of GE's total revenues for 1999 which amounted to US$112 billion. The European, Middle East and Africa market represent 24 per cent of GEMS global revenues.

Tourism reaches new heights

A REPORT published recently by the Ministry of Tourism suggests that Egypt is well on its way to establishing a record in the number of tourists visiting the country in a single year -- providing that stability prevails in the region, writes Rehab Saad.

During the period from January to September 2000, 4,141,956 tourists visited Egypt. As the high season begins in October, the ministry is predicting that the number of tourists visiting the country this year will surpass the five million mark. The year 1999 saw 4.8 million tourists visit the country.

Topping the list of countries sending tourists to Egypt during the first nine months of this year were Italy with 579,439; Germany with 559,557 and Israel with 304,412. Holding fourth through tenth places were France (282,963), England (270,702), Saudi Arabia (206,288), Benelux (178,984), the USA (175,092), Palestine (133,703) and Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (117,924).

September alone saw the entrance of 454,768 tourists -- representing a 10.4 per cent increase over the same period last year. Hotel occupancy rates in that period were 72 per cent with an increase of 3 per cent over the same period last year.

The Red Sea coast was the number one destination with regards to hotel occupancy rates, followed by Cairo, South Sinai, Giza, Luxor, Aswan and Alexandria.

However, the number of tourists entering Egypt does not tell the whole story. Although the European market is the main source of tourists and more Europeans visited Egypt this September than during the same period last year, the number of tourist nights by this group was 13.35 per cent lower than for the same period last year. The Ministry of Tourism's report cites the weakness of the euro against the US dollar, which makes Egypt a more expensive destination for European tourists, as the reason for this decline.

Given that a drop in the European market is viewed as a serious blow to tourism in Egypt, the report suggested a variety of measures to keep European numbers up. Hotels and travel agencies, it suggested, should accept the euro and European currencies alongside the dollar. Another alternative is to offer discounts to those paying in US dollars so that customers are not hurt by the exchange rate.

Minister of Tourism Mamdouh El-Beltagui said that the ministry is discussing these measures with hotels and travel agencies. Afterwards a meeting will be held with Prime Minister Atef Ebeid so that measures can be taken deal with this situation.

Internet and mobile phone banking

EGYPT is joining the worldwide trend of online and mobile financial services with the establishment of e-Business Solutions and Services (eBS), the first Egyptian company specialised in providing business solutions through the Internet and mobile phones.

eBS will offer a new generation of electronic banking and mobile banking programmes to enable banks to offer improved services to their customers via the Internet and mobile phones.

According to Mohamed Azmy, eBS's managing director, electronic banking allows banks to provide services such as balance inquiry, transfers between accounts, payment of bills in addition to other services 24 hours a day. Over the Internet, banking services can be made accessible from anywhere in the world.

Boosting Muslim trade

THE JEDDAH Chamber of Commerce and Industry has invited Egyptian industries to participate in the first International Islamic Trade Fair which is directed at promoting trade among Muslim countries. The event will be held in the Saudi capital Riyadh next March.

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB), which is sponsoring the event, has invited 50 Muslim countries from North Africa to the Far East. Each country is represented on IDB's board of directors.

Amr Shakib Al-Amawi, representative of the Jeddah Marketing Board, which is affiliated with the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, met with representatives of IDB's Cairo branch to discuss Egypt's participation in the fair.

Concerning the proceedings of the fair, Hammam Khaled Zare'a of the Jeddah International Exhibition and Convention Centre (JIEC) said that each participant is expected to exhibit a range of items from simple products to highly sophisticated systems utilising state-of-the-art technology. Seminars will be held to highlight investment and trade opportunities, Zare'a said.

If the fair is successful, added Zare'a, it may become an annual event hosted by a different Muslim country each year.

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