Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1409, (13-19 September 2018)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1409, (13-19 September 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Back on track

The tourism sector continues to recover, writes Ahmed Morsi

 

Back on track
Back on track

The number of tourists visiting Egypt during the first half of 2018 reached 5.1 million, a 40 per cent increase compared to the same period of last year. April witnessed the highest number of monthly visitors, with 990,000 tourists arriving.

The total number of tourist nights spent in the first half of 2018 was 50 million, a 60 per cent increase on the same period of the previous year.

The Ministry of Tourism had targeted 9.5 million tourists by the end of the year though the figure is now expected to exceed 10 million following the resumption of direct tourist flights from Russia to Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada.

Revenue from tourism in the first half of the year totalled $4.8 billion, an increase of 77 per cent compared to the first half of 2017, according to an anonymous official quoted by Reuters. In spite of the hike in tourist numbers, the figures are still below the peak of 2010 when 14 million tourists visited Egypt, bringing in $12.5 billion in revenues.

“The recovery is obvious in hotel occupancy rates,” the general manager of a hotel in Marsa Alam told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Ahmed Hassan, CEO of JIT Travel Company, believes improved security and political stability is one of the main factors feeding the recovery, together with “the floatation of the Egyptian currency which has made Egypt a cheaper destination for tourists.”

The Marsa Alam hotel manager praised efforts to promote Egypt as a destination by private companies. 

The manager of a hotel in Sharm El-Sheikh says the return of chartered flights from Russia to Egypt has also had a major impact.

“The return of direct flights in April boosted the confidence of foreign tourists in overall security and in the security measures at Egypt’s airports.”

Russia suspended flights to Egypt in October 2015 following the downing of a Russian passenger plane over Sinai killing all 224 passengers.

“Our hotel is currently 96 per cent booked,” said the Sharm El-Sheikh hotel manager, “and internal tourism is playing an important role in the improved occupancy rates.”

Hassan says the most popular destinations for tourists are Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada and Cairo, with Arab nationals forming the majority of this season’s visitors.

Meanwhile, a deal was signed last week between the finance and tourism ministries on new criteria for evaluating real estate tax on hotels. Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli oversaw the signing of the agreement between Finance Minister Mohamed Maait and Tourism Minister Rania Al-Mashat.

The agreement to base real estate taxes on hotels on the properties’ star rating was reached after extensive consultations between the owners of hotels, resorts, tourist investor associations and government officials.

“The tax rate of hotels has been set at LE50,000 per star,” said Tourism Minister Al-Mashat.

“The owners of hotels are satisfied with the new system of estimating the real estate tax for hotels,” says Elhami Al-Zayat, a former head of Egypt’s Federation of Tourism Chambers.

Tax ratings had previously been based on the number of hotel rooms and the market value of the land occupied by the hotel, said Al-Zayat.

Last week the Ministry of Tourism issued a statement denying there are “immediate plans to introduce mandatory travel insurance for tourists coming to Egypt.”

The statement was issued in response to a report in the International Travel and Health Insurance Journal (ITIJ) which claimed that following the recent deaths of British tourists John and Susan Cooper in Hurghada Egypt had decided to introduce mandatory travel insurance for all visitors.

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