Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Not well-promoted?

Poor publicity may be undermining a new campaign to encourage more domestic tourism in Egypt, reports Nesma Nowar

Al-Ahram Weekly

As the mid-year vacation selling season approaches its end, the recently launched Masr fi Kolobna (Egypt in our Hearts) campaign launched by the ministries of tourism and civil aviation is still seeing low customer numbers.

The initiative was launched in a bid to boost domestic tourism and local hotel occupancy rates during the mid-year vacation by offering Egyptians 50 per cent discounts on domestic tours.

The campaign offers packages for four days in a four-star floating cruise hotel in Luxor and Aswan at LE1,250 per person, including the air ticket. The ministry of tourism is subsidising the air tickets by a whopping LE500, offering tickets at LE700 instead of the normal LE1,200.

But “the campaign has been seeing a less than expected response,” Adla Ragab, advisor to the minister of tourism, told the Weekly.

Ragab said that the turnout for a similar campaign launched in September had been very high, and so the ministry had decided to increase the number of subsidised tickets to cover the increased demand.

In September, the ministries of tourism and civil aviation, together with other tourism-related organisations, launched a campaign called Baladna Awla Beena that aimed at reviving tourism in the country by offering discounted travel packages to Egyptian nationals.

The campaign was extended due to the high demand. While the September campaign only included Karnak, the travel company affiliated to the national carrier EgyptAir, this year’s initiative and packages were open to all travel agencies. However, “this did not help increase the demand,” Ragab said.

Ragab attributed the low turnout to the fact that people did not know about the campaign because there was not enough advertising of it. “People knew about the September campaign through the TV and radio, but this has not been the case for the current one.”

Ragab said that the weak advertising could have been the fault of the travel agencies, operators and Egypt Tourism Authority, which had not put out enough publicity around the campaign.

The media had also been busy with the referendum on the new constitution on 14 and 15 January, and people were busy with the mid-term exams in schools and universities.

“Out of the 6,000 subsidised air tickets issued for the campaign, only 2,000 have been sold,” Ragab said. Consequently, the campaign, which started on 24 January and was supposed to end on 1 February, will be extended until 20 February.

“We will even extend it to more than that if the tickets are not sold,” Ragab added.

Despite the low turnout, those who have heard about the campaign have praised it. “The high price of the air tickets was the main obstacle for me and my four-member family going to Luxor or Aswan,” said Randa Ali, a government employee. “But with the discounted rates, we spent a fantastic week in the historic cities,” she added.

Meanwhile, not all travel agencies offered the subsidised packages provided by the ministry of tourism. A couple of travel agencies contacted by the Weekly did not offer them, though another travel agency said that it had offered the packages and that all the subsidised air tickets it had had been sold.

The subsidised air tickets are valid for travel to the historic cities of Luxor and Aswan and the Red Sea resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada, but the larger portion of them has gone to Luxor and Aswan.

Ragab said that hotels in these cities had been very cooperative and had offered attractive rates because they needed customers. She was hopeful that during the next three weeks people would know more about the campaign and make use of the discounted rates.

Ragab was also optimistic about 2014 as a whole, saying that the tourism sector could grow by between 15 to 17 per cent by the end of this year. “As long we have the potential, I will remain optimistic.” she said.

Minister of Tourism Hisham Zazou was also optimistic about 2014 and expected tourism arrivals to reach 13.5 million in 2014, generating $11 billion in revenues.

According to a recent report by the Oxford Business Group, a consultancy, the lifting of travel alerts to Egypt by more than 20 countries should reassure potential visitors and contribute to reviving Egypt’s tourism sector, though it may not guarantee a surge in arrivals.

The report added that many hotels, travel agencies and tour companies had reduced their prices in a bid to attract more customers, which the report believed could be effective. Several prominent figures spent their Christmas and New Year’s holidays in Egypt, including European Union Foreign Affairs Chief Catherine Ashton.

Last September, many countries issued travel warnings against travelling to Egypt after violence swept the country following the removal of former president Mohammed Morsi on 3 July.

Tourism in Egypt has been suffering since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. After a slight improvement in 2012, it took another hit in 2013. Egypt's tourism revenues sank by 41 per cent to $5.9 billion in 2013 in comparison with a year earlier.

Tourism receipts in the first quarter of the 2013/14 financial year, which starts on July 1, dropped to US$931.1 million, down from $2.64 billion a year earlier, according to the Central Bank of Egypt.

The number of tourist nights spent in the country between July and September fell by 57 per cent to about 15 million, and the average visitor's spending also receded compared with a year earlier.

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