Al-Ahram Weekly Online   3 - 9 May 2012
Issue No. 1096
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Travel News

Divers' favourite

EGYPT won the 2011 Destination of the Year Award at the DIVER Awards ceremony in London. Tourism Minister Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour said he was very pleased with the award because it is a positive sign that Egyptian tourism is truly recovering, and evidence that the country is still a favourite destination for British diving enthusiasts.

Omayma El-Husseini, director of Egypt's Tourist Office in London, accepted the award that proclaimed Egypt 'Home of British diving'. El-Husseini said that tourism relations between Egypt and the UK have been strong for many years. "Winning the Destination of the Year Award is a great sign of trust in Egypt as a hotspot for British divers and all tourists alike," she said. Since the Destination of the Year category was introduced in 2003, with divers across the UK voting for their favourite destination, Egypt has won every consecutive year except once when it was awarded second place.

Cairo-Tokyo direct

TOURISM Minister Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour arrived in the Japanese capital Tokyo on the first direct flight by the national carrier EgyptAir after a one-year hiatus on this route since the 25 January revolution. This year, Egypt and Japan also celebrate 150 years since the first official encounter between the two civilisations, when the first Samurai delegation visited Egypt in 1862.

While in Tokyo, Abdel-Nour attended the 12th Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), which is a major annual event for the industry and is attended by more than 1,000 tourism leaders. He also talked with several Japanese officials about promoting tourism between the two countries ê" particularly that Japan should change its travel advisory about Egypt, to encourage more of its nationals to travel there. He also promoted the Tutankhamen Exhibit that is touring Japan for one year, telling Japanese media, including Fuji TV and Sunkei newspaper, about the exhibit's success in Osaka which is expected to attract around 2 million visitors by the end of July, before it moves to Tokyo on 4 August.

Abdel-Nour invited Japanese tourists ê" who are known for their passion about Egyptian history ê" to go beyond viewing the unique touring exhibits and go to Egypt in person to unlock the secrets of its civilisation and experience first-hand its inspiring spirit. He also assured them that security is guaranteed everywhere in Egypt, and that Egyptians are ready to receive visitors from all nationalities ê" especially Japan ê" with the utmost hospitality.

Restoring the twice-weekly direct Cairo-Tokyo route is an important step in rebuilding confidence in Egypt as a tourist destination for the very promising Japanese market. At Narita Airport in Tokyo, Abdel-Nour, Egyptian Ambassador to Tokyo Hisham El-Zimeti, EgyptAir Chairman Ayman Nasr, along with Japanese tourist officials, bid farewell to the Japanese tourist group boarding the first direct flight to Egypt in nearly one year.

Abdel-Nour added that his ministry is keen on capitalising on all cultural events about Egypt in Japan during this year to promote Egypt as a tourist destination, including Opera Aida and the two-month long Egyptian Antiquities Museum housing exhibits from the British Museum, starting in July.

Abdel-Nour held talks with Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism Tekeshi Maeda and invited him to visit Egypt soon for further discussions on boosting cooperation in tourism. He also met with Norifumi Idee, commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency, and invited 21 Japanese youth who are victims from the three regions (Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima) that were the hardest hit by the earthquake of March, 2011, to visit Egypt and explore the secrets of Ancient Egypt. He described it as a gesture of goodwill by the people of Egypt, in solidarity and support of the Japanese people during their ordeal.

At the global travel and tourism summit, Abdel-Nour urged all travel and tourism decision-makers to pressure governments to facilitate visa procedures and eliminate taxes on plane tickets in order to increase the volume of tourists around the world. He told a panel discussion this would positively influence economic growth and job creation. Meanwhile, the WTTC, in cooperation with the UN World Tourism Organisation, said it intends to discuss the issue during the June G-20 summit in Mexico.

During his visit, Abdel-Nour also met with major Japanese travel agents and told them that his ministry is ready for more cooperation to ensure that Egypt remains a main tourist destination in their travel packages. He also urged them to send more tourists to Egypt to reach previous levels, especially after EgyptAir restarted direct flights to Tokyo. Travel agents agreed that Egypt is a preferred destination for Japanese tourists, and promised to encourage more trips to the country. In fact, they said, there are already more bookings for the winter season ê" especially on long Nile cruises ê" starting in September, 2012.

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