“International tourism is rebounding to pre-pandemic levels… twice as many people travelled during the first quarter of 2023 than in the same period in 2022,” says the latest report by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
According to the second UNWTO World Tourism Barometer of 2023, 235 million tourists — 80 per cent of pre-pandemic numbers — travelled internationally in the first quarter of this year. The Middle East saw the strongest recovery, according to the report. It was the only region to exceed 2019 arrivals by 15 per cent, and the first to recover pre-pandemic volumes.
In Egypt, tourism rebounded in the final quarter of 2022 and continued in the first quarter of 2023. According to Tourism and Antiquities Minister Ahmed Issa, Egypt received 11.7 million tourists in 2022, up from eight million in 2021, a 46.2 per cent increase. Tourism then witnessed 43 per cent growth during the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2022.
Fifteen million tourists are expected to visit Egypt this year, says Issa, breaking the 14.7 million record set in 2010.
According to the Central Bank of Egypt, tourism sector revenues increased to $2.7 billion in the first quarter of 2023up from $500 million in the same period in 2020, and indicators in the tourism barometer report issued by the Information and Decision Support Centre show increased optimism about the tourist sector’s performance on the part of tourism executives.
The National Tourism Strategy launched in November 2022 aims to attract 30 million tourists to Egypt by 2028, increasing arrivals by 25-30 per cent annually.
The strategy targets a threefold increase in seat capacity on flights in collaboration with the Ministry of Civil Aviation. It seeks to enhance tourists’ experience if archaeological sites, museums and other landmarks, create convenient products for frequent independent travellers, improve the investment environment and encourage investment in room capacity.
It also focuses on fast-growing markets that can generate high volumes of travellers and widening the range of tourist activities to increase tourist spending.
“There are currently 13 work streams to improve the quality of services and entertainment provided to tourists,” says Issa.
In March 2023, Egypt introduced new entry visa rules in an attempt to boost tourism. Chinese tourists can now obtain a visa upon arrival, as can Indian tourists who are GCC residents or have a valid entry used visa to the US, UK, Schengen countries, Canada, New Zealad, Japan, and Australia. Turkish tourists can obtain a visa upon arrival to Egypt regardless of age, as can Algerians and Moroccons travelling in tourist groups.
Iranian tourists arriving directly in South Sinai through a tourism agency can also obtain a visa upon arrival while Iraqi tourists are are eligible if they have a valid used entry visa to the US, UK, Schengen countries, Canada, New Zealand, Japan or Australia. People under 16 years and over 60 years can obtain an electronic visa through the e-visa platform, and a new multi-entry visa 5-year visa is now available for $700.
In April 2022, facilities were launched offering 180 nationalities visas upon arrival as long as they are in possession of a valid used visa from the US, Canada, UK, Schengen area, Japan, Australia or New Zealand, and 78 nationalities can obtain the e-visa through the the e-visa platformon arrival at Egyptian ports. There are, in addition, special facilities available for additional nationalities flying directly to Sharm El-Sheikh and Taba.
Archaeological sites and museums have improved services to enhance the visitor experience, and partnerships have been developed with private-sector companies to upgrade visitor facilities on sites, including visitor paths, signage, maps, QR codes, sunshades, benches, self-cleaning toilets, eco-friendly vehicles and facilities for those with for special needs.
E-ticketing systems are being implemented at some sites and museums, and a web-based platform for obtaining e-tickets is due to be launched. Entry to some archaeological sites, including the temples of Edfu, Kom Ombo, Philae and Abu Simbel in Aswan, can now be paid for using bank cards.
An international promotional campaign, “Your Expectations are History”, has been launched, alongside a new promotional website.
“Our strategy is based on creatively promoting Egypt as a tourist destination,” says Amr Al-Kadi, CEO of the Egyptian Tourism Authority (ETA). He explained that the new promotional campaign aims to change the stereotypical image of Egypt and show the country as a vibrant destination, showcasing the diversity of its attractions — beautiful beaches, warm weather, unique cultural heritage, Nile cruises, desert safaris, adventure, religious and spiritual tourism, dining, night life and much more.
“Egypt is a hub for all types of tourists: families, adventurers, those seeking relaxation, leisure and culture,” he says.
“We are in the first phase of the campaign.” The second phase will focus on tactical advertisement, highlighting destinations and product sseparately, and according to season. The campaign has already been rolled out across multiple platforms in 18 targeted markets, including Germany, China, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, the US, and India.
Co-marketing campaigns with tour operators and airline companies in target markets are also underway, as are familiarisation trips for tour operators, influencers, travel writers and journalists and joint venture travel workshops with the Tourism Ministry’s counterparts, while https://www.experienceegypt.eg provides visitors with accurate information about destinations, weather, currency, transport inside the country and opening and closing hours.
“Because Egypt is a country with a rich history offering diverse destinations and experiences, the website aims to help tourists navigate what is on offer and make it easier for them to find the type of vacation they are looking for,” says Al-Kady. It provides navigation options by region — the Nile, Mediterranean, Red Sea and Deserts — and by city. Visitors can also search types of holiday and experience.
The ETA is also working with international tour operators and agents to market Egypt as a destination for meetings, conferences and exhibitions. Deals were signed during Internationale Tourismusbörse Berlin 2023 to increase the number of flights from Germany to Egypt and launch a co-marketing campaign to promote Egypt in Germany.
Egypt is also knocking on the doors of new target markets such as China. In January, Egypt received the first Chinese tourists since COVID-19, and in early April China’s Minister of Culture and Tourism Hu Heping visited Egypt on his first overseas visit since the Covid-19 pandemic.
A technical workshop between 22 tour operators and their counterparts in Egypt has been held, alongside a tourism promotion webinar to promote Egyptian-Chinese partnership over tourism. Discussions have taken place in both countries on post-Covid supply chain rebuilding and new marketing approaches as well as innovating tourist routes and the presale of tourism products.
Latin America is also being targeted by ETA to attract inbound tourism.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 1 June, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly