The Tourism and Aviation Committee at the Young Egyptian Businessmen’s Association said in a statement on Saturday that Egypt should follow the example of other countries in easing travel restrictions to help revive tourism and attract more investments to the sector.
The hospitality industry has faced unprecedented losses and damages over the past four months. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recently announced that the COVID-19 pandemic and countrywide lockdowns across the globe have cost a staggering $320 billion in losses in just four months from January to May, while the number of tourists dropped by almost half compared to 2019, a drop of 300 million visitors.
This drop in travel is more than three times greater than the one that took place during the 2009 global economic crisis. The UN’s trade and development arm said earlier this month that tourism could lose as much as $2.2 trillion in 2020, according to the committee’s head Mohamed Kaoud.
“However, it is expected that in the coming days more people will be travelling, as countries have started reopening their borders to visitors from select countries. The UNWTO recently published an analysis that shows nearly 40 percent of all destinations across the world have now eased restrictions, 87 destinations have eased travel restrictions, and four have lifted all restrictions completely,” Kaoud said.
“Meanwhile, the remaining 83 have eased certain restrictions while keeping some measures such as the partial closure of borders. Also, the latest edition of the UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report shows that nearly 115 destinations (53 percent of all destinations worldwide) continue to keep their borders completely closed to tourism.”
Kaoud said that governments have a dual responsibility of prioritising public health while also protecting jobs and businesses. In order for the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Egypt and the Egyptian government to achieve this balance, the government needs to act intelligently on the micro and macro levels.
As destinations continue to ease travel restrictions, international cooperation is highly important to gain the trust and confidence of governments and travellers. Most EU countries still have concerns about Egypt that need to be tackled efficiently and promptly.
Germany has listed the UAE, Uganda and Rwanda as safe destinations, but has questioned Egypt’s transparency and efficiency with regards to the handling of the COVID-19 crisis, Kaoud said.
Additionally, Egypt should explore Portugal's insurance approach. Portugal’s national tourism body recently launched new travel insurance for foreign tourists travelling to the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as a part of the “new normal.”
The insurance has been introduced with the aim of showcasing that the country is safe for travellers and covers a range of different expenses including medical, surgical, pharmaceutical, and hospital charges associated with coronavirus, together with other expenses that may occur from cancellation, interruption, or the extension of trips, according to Kaoud.
He also added that some governments are considering reviving their tourism industry with a revised strategy of “high value, low volume.” Egypt could aim to attract niche tourists and high-end tourists, even though budget tourists comprise the bulk of Egypt’s visitors.
“Saudi Arabia has joined hands with Europe’s biggest hotel group Accor in expanding and operating a resort at the $20 billion Al-Ula tourism project in the kingdom’s northwestern region, according to the Royal Commission for the project,” Kaoud said.
“Besides, major investments are taking place in Neom and the Red Sea. Malaysia managed to attract strategic investors Tayrona Capital from Singapore to invest $350 million in tourism, hospitality and entertainment projects at the second most popular destination in Malaysia, Melaka. Egypt needs to work on such major investment projects and provide opportunities for foreign direct investment in Egypt's beautiful destinations.”
In July, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait revealed that Egypt lost EGP 123 billion ($7.721 billion) in revenues during the past three months due to COVID-19 crisis, while the minister of tourism and antiquities disclosed that the tourism sector was losing $1 billion monthly.