Al-Ahram Weekly Online   12 - 18 March 2009
Issue No. 938
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

'Great value for money'


AT THE END of the 29th round of the Borsa Internazionale Del Tourismo (Bit), Minister of Tourism Zoheir Garana revealed his optimism about the future of the Egypt's tourism industry. Garana told journalists travelling with him that despite challenging economics and a reported 20-30 per cent drop in tourism in January, he expects the industry to bounce back. He asserted that once that happens, "we will be ready."

Garana listed that Egypt has modernised its airports, ports, roads and is currently working on its railway network. "We are working hard with all our partners and opening new markets," he noted. "We aim at providing an excellent, diverse, high-quality tourism product, which is of great value for the money." He added that Egypt has launched a wide ranging promotional campaign in a bid to attract tourists, and is offering great facilities and incentives for investors to remain in the business.

While all markets remain important, Garana asserted that those which are closer in proximity to Egypt are a top priority. Travellers, noted the minister, won't stop going on trips but will focus on the best deals they can get along with the proximity of the destination. "We are quite knowledgeable of our market and our client's needs. Many travelers nowadays focus on last-minute booking deals; they head to the airport with nothing on their mind except wanting to spend their weekend on the beach. These are many and what makes a difference to them is the destination which best matches their budget," Garana explained.

He was cautious, however, in speculating about the repercussions of the credit crunch on the market, or how long would it last. "We have to monitor the market closely and react accordingly and adapt to current circumstances," the minister said. "People won't stop travelling, but we need to design packages tailored to their convenience because it is in our interest to keep the business flowing. It is possible that the market's mechanism will change, but we are ready and will change our strategy accordingly."

Egypt, confirmed Garana, is keen on participating in events such as the Bit, especially that Italy ranks fourth on the list of tourism-exporting countries to Egypt. He revealed that all contracts for the current season were reached in meetings between Egyptian and Italian tourism agents at the Milano travel bourse.

Last year, more than one million Italians visited Egypt occupying 10 million tourist nights. As a means of supporting their partners who invest in the tourism sector, Egypt will conduct joint promotional campaigns and organise press trips to tour operators and travel companies interested in investing in Egypt. For their part, the Italians stressed the importance of the Egyptian tourism market, asserting their faith and trust in the Egyptian hospitality industry.

According to Italian tour operators, surveys show that the Red Sea and Nile cruises remain major attractions for Italian travelers. Also, while Italians are still willing to travel, they might shorten the duration of their trips due to financial hardships.

Russia tops the list of tourism-exporting countries to Egypt, followed by Germany, UK, Italy, Poland, France, Ukraine, Greece, Czech Republic and Holland. "The US may not be in the top ten but for the very first time it will exceed the 300,000 visitor figure, now that people perceive Egypt as a safe destination," he advocated. "Americans are now aware that the Middle East is such a vast area and that we are quite far from any troubled zones in the region. The media has also contributed to increased visits from the US."

The Ministry of Tourism aims to raise the number of tourists to Egypt to 14 million by 2011, occupying around 140 million tourist nights. Garana pointed out that in 2008, tourist arrivals rose sharply by around 19 per cent to 13 million. Income from tourism in the same year came to around $11.6 billion, which is a large 23 per cent leap from 2007.

Altogether, Egypt has 1.2 per cent of the world's share of tourism, with a 9.5 per cent share of the world's developments in the industry. Banking on its ancient civilisation and cultural richness, the Garana's ministry is adopting aggressive marketing campaigns to promote the industry internationally. This has led to an increase in the number of tourists over the past years.

Using slogans such as 'The gift of the sun' and 'Egypt -- nothing compares', the campaigns aim to attract greater numbers of visitors from Europe. Other promotional strategies were engineered both locally and overseas to attract tourists from around the world.

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