Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) signed a Covid-19 tourism recovery technical assistance cooperation package last week to promote resilience, sustainability, and inclusive growth of the sector in Egypt.
“The package comes at a crucial time, as it supports the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and its affiliated agencies as well as the private sector to embark on the ongoing changes,” Khaled El-Enany, minister of tourism and antiquities, said.
Egypt’s tourism sector has been hard hit by Covid-19, with revenues diving by nearly 70 per cent to $4 billion in 2020. The number of tourists visiting Egypt sank to 3.5 million last year from 13.1 million in 2019, El-Enany told Reuters. Foreign occupancy rates in Egyptian hotels dropped to just 10 to 15 per cent of 2019 levels.
“The agreement is an example of deepening collaborations to advance sectoral support and accelerate progress to meet Egypt’s priorities going forward,” Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat said, adding that the package aims to formulate recommendations to stimulate the sector and retain jobs, protect the most vulnerable, strengthen supply chains in the tourism sector, and support the transition to the circular economy as well as support institutions operating in the sector such as small and medium-sized enterprises.
The package includes areas of intervention structured around three main pillars: economic recovery, marketing and promotion, and institutional strengthening and resilience.
Five tasks will be looked at: training inspectors and officials in the tourism sector on impact analysis and protocols; the development of tourism recovery incentive programmes to stimulate tourism through benchmarking with other tourism-dependent countries; a review of the institutional re-structuring of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities; a review of the effectiveness of operational protocols on safety, hygiene and security; and the building of the resilience of tourism enterprises to adapt to Covid-19, including on safety and hygiene.
The package builds on measures already taken by the EBRD under its crisis solidarity package to support existing clients in their handling of losses caused by Covid-19 lockdowns. The aim is to expand on that client-level support package with country-level technical assistance to facilitate the fast and sustainable recovery of tourism.
Since March 2020, the world as a whole has been struggling with the impacts of the new coronavirus, considered to be an unprecedented global health crisis, the repercussions of which are being felt in all sectors of society and the economy.
In May 2020, the WTO forecast that the impacts of Covid-19 will result in international tourist arrivals dropping by 60 to 80 per cent compared with 2019 figures. It said that in 2009 international tourist arrivals had declined by four per cent in the wake of the world financial crisis, while the SARS outbreak had led to a decline of just 0.4 per cent in 2003.
The Egyptian government has implemented various containment measures against the pandemic, including a lockdown.
This has included a ban on travel, tourist activities, and major sporting events. The containment managed to limit the scale of infections in Egypt, and the government also took various decisions to support tourism and investors and employees in the sector as well as issuing health guideline to resume inbound tourism.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 January, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.