Wednesday,19 December, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)
Wednesday,19 December, 2018
Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Luring back the British

Egypt is winning back British tourists following the travel ban to Sharm El-Sheikh, reports Safeya Mounir in London

More British tourists are coming to Egypt despite the UK travel ban
More British tourists are coming to Egypt despite the UK travel ban

At the World Travel Market (WTM) in London, an Egyptian delegation comprised of officials and businesspeople working in the tourism sector focused on two targets: improving the image of Egypt in the eyes of foreign travellers and winning back tourists from the British market.

The WTM, which concluded on 8 November, is a leading international tourism trade event.

The Egyptian presence at the show proved a success, despite the travel ban the UK imposed on flights to the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh after a Russian charter jet crashed in Sinai in November 2015.

“We have found increasing demand this year for the Egyptian market. British tour operators have been planning trips and enquiring about charter flights to Egypt,” said Ehab Abdel-Aal, head of Blue Moon, a travel company participating in the fair.

There are indications British tourists will come back to Egypt this winter, he added.

During the past two years, the travel ban the UK imposed on flights to Sharm El-Sheikh has affected the number of British tourists visiting Egypt. This year, however, according to figures released by the Egyptian Tourism Ministry, more tourists are flying to Egypt from the UK.

2010 saw a peak in the numbers of British tourists visiting Egypt, reaching 1.5 million. The following year the numbers began spiralling down, reaching 900,000 in 2014. This year, around 600,000 British tourists have visited Egypt thus far, a 31 per cent increase on the same period last year.

Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed met with a number of UK travel agencies at the WTM, including with Jet2, an airline, that said that British tourists’ increasing demand for travel to Egypt would encourage the company to resume its flights this winter.

Rashed also met with the travel agency Thomas Cook and Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) representatives to discuss promoting visits to locations from the Holy Family’s journey in Egypt.

The country was added as a Christian pilgrimage destination after Roman Catholic Pope Francis blessed an icon of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt last month. Rashed’s meeting with the UK travel agencies included a screening of the promotional film Pilgrimage to Egypt.

However, “it would have been better if a campaign targeting travel agencies had been launched before promoting trips directly to travellers,” commented Nora Ali, head of the Master Travel Agency taking part in the WTM.

British travel agencies want to organise trips to Egypt, but they fear weak demand, Ali said. Despite a slight increase in the number of British tourists visiting Egypt, the figures are “way less” than before the 2015 ban.

It is vital for UK travel agencies to press their government to lift the flight ban on Sharm El-Sheikh, she continued, reciting an incident when the head of the UK’s Monarch Airlines announced that one of the reasons his company had gone bankrupt earlier this year was the ban on the Red Sea resort.

“A promotional campaign will be launched in the UK in January 2018 for six months,” said Hisham Al-Demiri, head of the Tourism Development Authority (TDA), at a press conference at the WTM.

He said that despite the ban the British market was positively responding to Egypt’s efforts, evident in the results of campaigns to promote Marsa Alam and Hurghada on the Red Sea coast.

The TDA is simultaneously promoting other destinations besides Sharm El-Sheikh, like Marsa Alam and Hurghada, until the ban relaxes in order to maintain the numbers of British tourists.

Last month, it invited 25 leading UK tour agencies to Luxor, and it is currently organising a trip to Marsa Alam for 125 travel companies in a bid to attract more British travellers to Egypt’s travel destinations.

A number of Egyptian travel agencies said the promotional campaign had come too late, however, and that it should have been launched earlier to create more demand. The current promotion targets last-minute travellers and those who want to book the Easter vacation and winter 2019, said Amr Al-Ezabi, director of the Tourism Development Bureau in the UK.

It would be difficult for British tourists to change favourite travel destinations to Marsa Alam or Hurghada unless proper programmes were in place, Al-Ezabi said, adding that many UK tour agencies refuse to add Luxor to their travel programmes.

A public-relations campaign should have been launched to emphasise the tight security measures and safety of such destinations, he concluded. 


 The writer is a freelance journalist.

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