The efforts of Egypt’s tourism sector to attract more travellers to the country further paid off recntly, when the US magazine National Geographic picked Abu Simbel in Upper Egypt as among “the planet’s 25 most exciting destinations for the year ahead”.
Egypt’s tourism is improving by the day as a result of the restoration of political stability and confidence in its tourist products. Egypt’s reputation as a premium travel destination has been commended at world tourism events, resulting in a series of successes for the sector, the most recent of which was the recommendation by National Geographic.
“Positive news about Egypt and recommendations to visit the country are sure to have a good impact. National Geographic’s selection of Abu Simbel will definitely benefit Egypt’s cultural tourism,” said Mohamed Hassanein, head of the Egyptian Cultural Tourism Association and the owner of a travel agency.
Abu Simbel, around 250km south of Aswan, is the site of two temples built by the ancient Egyptian king Ramses II who reigned from 1279-1213 BCE. The main temple, whose façade includes four colossal statues of Ramses II, underwent complex engineering feats in the 1960s to salvage it from the rising water during the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
“National Geographic’s recommendation was the result of Egypt’s political stability and security. The world youth forums that Egypt organises are also promotional tools and part of the country’s efforts to upgrade the tourism infrastructure,” said Hisham Idriss, a member of the Egyptian Chamber of Tourism Companies.
“Egypt should focus on promoting its cultural tourism because it brings in significant revenues,” he added.
Idriss expects hotel occupancy rates at Luxor and Aswan during the Christmas holidays to reach 90 per cent.
He recommended upgrading the road networks leading to tourist attractions, as well as the services provided in these areas. He stressed the need to create entertainment zones and allow access to tourist attractions at night during the summer. It was also important to maintain the flow of visitors to cultural destinations all year round, he said.
“Tourism is reaping the fruits of the efforts to restore political stability and security made five years ago,” said Safi Salem, a marketing and sales manager at a five-star hotel in Sharm El-Sheikh. “Larger numbers of tourists are arriving in Egypt from new tourism markets, such as Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, and Algeria.”
Salem said Egypt’s conference tourism was also on the rise. The country has held several conventions of late, such as the Invest in Africa Forum held earlier this week in Cairo and the world youth forums held in Sharm El-Sheikh.
“Even more encouraging to tourists is the upgrading of the infrastructure at tourist destinations. For example, the Corniche area was renovated in Luxor and Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada have also witnessed several upgrades,” he stated.
Salem said that this year there had been a 20 per cent increase in reservations by foreign tourists for the Christmas vacation and that prices of hotel rooms had gone up by 30 per cent on last year. In 2016 and 2017, years when tourism was hard hit, hotel rates had fallen sharply.
He said Egypt’s tourism needed more promotional campaigns in world markets and new methods to advertise the country’s destinations, including digitally, however.
In 2018, the Ministry of Tourism signed a contract with a consortium of companies to promote Egypt’s travel destinations. The consortium includes Egypt’s Synergy Company and the international IPG / MCN Group. The latter operates in 100 countries and comprises a group of advertising and marketing companies.
The ministry also partnered with the US network CNN in May to promote the country’s tourist destinations. The move was the result of Egypt’s plan to diversify its promotional platforms and create new content for what it has to offer.
In fiscal year 2018-19 Egypt’s tourism revenues rose to $12.5 billion, up from $9.8 billion in 2017-18 and $7.2 billion the year before.
Mohamed Tharwat, the owner of a travel agency and member of the Egyptian Chamber of Tourism Companies, said that tourism in Egypt had increased by 28-30 per cent since the beginning of the year, giving a host of reasons for this including political stability, security, Egypt’s good relations with most countries, and promotional campaigns launched by travel agencies and the Ministry of Tourism.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 December, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.