hot air balloons fly over the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor, Egypt. AP
This winter, Egypt’s tour operators will be competing with Greece and Turkey in the battle to attract European holidaymakers, particularly retirees keen to escape the cold, according to the Egyptian Travel Agents Association (ETAA).
Sameh Saad, former director of Misr Travel Company and former advisor to the Ministry of Tourism, said German travel agents have already contacted hotel owners in Hurghada to arrange stays longer than two weeks.
Elhami Al-Zayat, a former chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, is forecasting a 50 per cent increase in tourist numbers over the same period last year, largely on the back of longer stay tourists from the European market this winter. This is on top of the almost 200 per cent increase in tourism in 2021 over the previous 12-month period.
Egypt aims to increase its tourism revenues from 2021’s $13 billion to $30 billion over the next three years, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli said on 11 September during a visit to Sharm El-Sheikh. Tourism is one of Egypt’s most crucial industries, providing around 20 per cent of GDP, and a major source of foreign currency.
“Egypt needs to find ways to encourage more residential tourism,” says Sameh Saad. “We could take advantage of the residential compounds that are being developed and that come with facilities such as club houses and gyms.”
He points out that longer-term tourists are put off by hotel rooms and having to rely on the hotel to provide all the services they need.
“Many longer stay foreign tourists would feel more comfortable in a small flat equipped with a kitchen, living room, and all other features to make them feel at home,” says Saad.
Ehab Abdel Aal, former treasurer of the Chamber of Tourism Establishments, says tour companies are already developing programmes that offer accommodation in serviced flats in resort towns such as Hurghada, Marsa Alam, and Sharm El-Sheikh. The rates cited are in the neighbourhood of $350 a week, or $1,500 a month, excluding air travel. The companies are targeting the German and UK markets, both of which have high numbers of retirees.
Saad believes long-stay tourism could prove very profitable and has the advantage of not requiring intensive promotion, while Abdel-Aal argues resorts such as Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada, and Marsa Alam possess the requisite attractions to satisfy those seeking a longer-term destination. Yet Egypt will face stiff competition as it attempts to establish itself in the market. Currently, it ranks 14th in terms of long-stay vacations, trailing Spain, Portugal, Greece, the US (Florida), Cyprus, and Dubai. It does, though, have the advantage that 40,000 Russians own flats in Hurghada, where their presence helps attracts relatives, friends, and compatriots. It is a cost-free form of publicity, points out Abdel Aal.
“The energy crisis in Europe will last for years,” says Saad. “The government should therefore adopt policies that encourage more foreigners to become flat owners. The Ministry of Tourism needs to intervene to protect the rights of foreigners who purchase real estate in resorts.”
In the past, says Saad, large numbers of foreigners who purchased property found themselves victims of scams, tarnishing the reputation of owning property in Egypt. “These problems need to be remedied and the ministry should intervene to do so.”
Among the advantages of foreigners owning property in Egypt, according to Al-Zayat, is that it encourages them to keep returning.
“Foreign universities and schools that meet international standards, such as those established in New Alamein and other tourist towns, will attract large numbers of people from abroad, especially Arab students. They, like other foreigners, would prefer to own their accommodation,” he says.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 September, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.