Thursday,21 September, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1360, (14 - 20 September 2017)
Thursday,21 September, 2017
Issue 1360, (14 - 20 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

On the road to recovery?

Egypt’s tourism sector has improved this year, but proper campaigns are still needed if it is really to bounce back, writes Nesma Nowar

On the road to recovery?
On the road to recovery?

There has been much positive news for the tourism industry recently, signalling that this vital sector might be set for a rebound.

Egypt’s tourism revenues increased by 170 per cent in the first seven months of 2017, reaching $3.5 billion, a government official told Reuters last week. In that period, tourists visiting Egypt rose by 54 per cent year-on-year to reach 4.3 million, the official said.

He ascribed the increase to a surge in visitors from Germany and Ukraine and said that Europeans made up 75 per cent of visitors while Arabs accounted for 20 per cent.

The hike comes despite the continued UK and Russian ban on flights to the popular Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, in place since November 2015, when a Russian airliner was downed over Sinai killing all 224 people on board.

Despite the fact that Russia and the UK are the two biggest markets for tourists to Egypt, the country has been receiving increasing numbers of tourists from other European countries.   

A recent report by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) shows that international tourist arrivals increased by six per cent in the first six months of 2017, compared to the same period last year, with the growth led by Mediterranean destinations. 

According to the latest WTO World Tourism Barometer, Mediterranean destinations reported particularly strong growth in the first half of 2017, as reflected in the results for Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+ 12 per cent), North Africa (+ 16 per cent) and the Middle East (+ nine per cent). 

“This trend is driven by the continued strength of many destinations in the area, combined with a significant rebound in destinations that suffered decreases in previous years, such as Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia,” the WTO said. 

An earlier report revealed that Egypt was the world’s second-fastest growing tourist destination for 2017. 

It said that the country had witnessed a 51 per cent spike in international tourist arrivals this year and was on course to welcome nearly eight million holidaymakers in 2017, though this is still below the peak of 2010 when 14 million tourists visited the country.

Another report by Colliers International, a real-estate company, shows that occupancy rates in Egypt’s major tourist cities increased in the second quarter of 2017, compared to the same period last year.

The report said that occupancy rates in Sharm El-Sheikh increased in the second quarter of 2017 due to an increase from both the domestic and Arab markets and the lifting of the travel ban from key European countries. It expects this trend to continue over the course of the year.

Cairo also saw a four per cent increase in occupancy rates in the second quarter of 2017, according to the report. 

More European tourists came to Egypt this year from a variety of countries. The number of Ukrainian and Polish tourists visiting Egypt jumped 120 per cent in the first half of 2017, compared to the same period last year, Tourism Development Authority (TDA) head Hisham Al-Demiri said last month, citing data from the Ukrainian and Polish governments.

The increase in the number of Polish tourists was so significant that Polish tour operators requested Egypt to reopen its tourism office in Warsaw to cater to rising demand for flights from the Polish capital. Operators have reportedly said they would work on increasing bookings during the upcoming winter and summer seasons.

The TDA is planning to launch a winter tourism promotion campaign in Europe this month, according to Al-Demiri, which will run until January 2018 and target markets such as the UK, Poland, Ukraine and Germany.

Former deputy chairman of the Hotels Chamber at the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Tourism Nagi Erian said that Egypt had received more tourists from Poland, Ukraine, Germany and China. But he said that for the sector really to bounce back, it needs the Russian ban to be lifted and more campaigning.

He said that Russia sends three million tourists annually to Egypt, which has helped improve the sector. He attributed the increase in German tourists this year to the fact that many Germans had replaced Turkey, their usual holiday destination, with Egypt on the back of political tensions between Germany and Turkey.

Erian added that President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s visits to various countries had helped promote tourism. “We are still suffering from poor promotional campaigns,” Erian told Al-Ahram Weekly. “We don’t go to the right places at the right time.”

Erian said that promotions for the summer season should happen in January and February because foreign tourists usually plan their holidays well ahead.

In his opinion, the system of tourism campaigns in Egypt was not “professional” enough to reach the targeted markets. He said that the approach must be changed, suggesting approaching such markets through their local media.

“Without proper marketing, we won’t achieve what we aim for,” Erian said. 

Meanwhile, considerable efforts are being exerted to help boost tourism to Egypt. During the recent BRICS summit meeting in China, Al-Sisi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discussed the resumption of air travel between Cairo and Moscow. Putin reportedly said he hoped this would happen soon.

Though Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov said that Russian experts had positively assessed one of the terminals at Cairo Airport and that the Egyptian side had gone to “considerable lengths” to intensify aviation and transport security measures, he did not specify when air traffic would resume, according to the TASS Russian news agency. 

As for the Chinese market, Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed said earlier this month that negotiations were underway to put on three additional flights a week between Cairo and Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, in addition to increasing air traffic from China to the Red Sea and Mediterranean coasts. 

The tourism authority in the Chinese Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region also signed an agreement with the Egyptian Tourism Authority early in September that should see both sides cooperate to boost tourism. 

A similar agreement was signed between Egypt and Romania during Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri’s visit to the country in August that will see both states promoting tourism to each other’s country.

These efforts could help lure more tourists to Egypt, especially since it has now become a cheaper destination for many tourists around the world. 

The devaluation of the currency and the upswing in tourism has prompted the Hilton chain to plan to expand its number of hotels in Egypt to 30 from a current 17 over the next seven to 10 years, Vice President of Middle East Operations Mohab Ghali told Reuters in an interview last month.

He said that if things remained stable, Egypt could see pre-2011 levels of tourism in the 2018 winter season, with more revenues on the way because of the devaluation.

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