President and CEO of Marriott International's Arne Sorenson (R) and President and Managing Director of the Middle East and Africa at Marriott International Alex Keyriakidis (L) speak to Egyptian press about Marriott's plans for expansion in Egypt (Photo: Ahmed Kotb)
Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, said that travellers are not afraid to come to Egypt anymore given the country's political stability.
“Egypt is a really compelling tourist destination, and the stable political situation has helped regain trust in the country as a favourite tourist destination,” he told the Egyptian press during a round table meeting this week.
Sorenson also pointed out that Egypt has historically been a key market for Marriott International, and ranks in their top five markets for the Middle East and Africa.
Sorenson added that there is considerably more stability and optimism in the market since his last visit to Egypt in 2012, when there was too much uncertainty.
Although tourism is not back to peak levels, the numbers are getting better.
More than 8 million tourists visited Egypt last year, compared to 4.5 million in 2016. This helped attract new investments in the tourism and hospitality sector.
International tourism is going up as well despite a rise of terrorist attacks in different parts of the world over the last few years.
“There have been 1.3 billion international trips in 2017, a 6-7 percent increase over 2016,” Sorenson said.
Terrorist attacks, according to Sorenson, in different places worldwide in the last few years like London, Brussels, and Paris made travellers realise that such attacks can happen everywhere in the world and that they didn’t hold international tourism back.
“The predictability that these events might happen again around the world made it a sign of encouragement, and many tourists decide to travel anyway,” he said.
Responding to a question from Ahram Online about the effect on tourism of the USA’s travel ban on citizens from a number of Muslim countries, Sorenson said that the tourism and hotel business depends on a diverse community around the world.
“Our business is hospitality, and we welcome everyone around the world,” he stressed.
With four new hotels currently under development, Sorenson said that Marriott plans to add over 1,200 rooms.
Marriott International is the largest international hotel company operating in Egypt, with 18 hotels with more than 7,400 rooms across the country.
Alex Keyriakidis, president and managing director of the Middle East and Africa at Marriott International, said that the group sees a surge of interest in investing in hotels, led mainly by the development of cities and the construction of the New Administrative Capital.
“These are projects that can attract many investments,” he stressed.
He pointed out that the group has been in discussions with the Egyptian Ministry of Housing for expansion projects in cities like El-Alamein, and other cities that are underrepresented like Alexandria, adding that Marriott was currently discussing how they can develop there.
He added that they have high priority plans for development opportunities in Upper Egypt.
“We want to expand our projects in places like Luxor and Aswan as well," Keyriakidis said.
The Red Sea also has the potential for growth in terms of tourism and hotels.
“We need to stimulate the market by having more flights,” he said, adding that many investors want to put their money in Egypt.