Destination Egypt

Richly varied in culture, landscape and history, and highly hospitable by nature, Egypt is currently channelling its pent up energy into rebuilding its travel and tourism industry from the top down. Emily Millett reports.

Never far from the scrutinous eye of the world’s media, Egypt has endless tourism appeal, miles of future potential and an impressive font of positive attitude. This abundance of national accolades, combined with a stunning coastline and world-renowned religious and cultural sites is helping the destination to lift its tourism industry back to the leading position it deserves.

According to the most recent statistics gathered by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Egyptian Tourism Authority (ETA), July 2015 saw an increase in tourism arrivals to Egypt over the previous year, with incoming travellers from the MENA region all seeing significant growth.

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Overall the number of tourists who visited Egypt in July 2015 saw a 2.9 per cent increase when compared with July 2014, while Arab tourists saw a dramatic 39.5 per cent increase. Paring it down to nationality, July’s statistics reflect a 65.6 per cent increase in the number of Emirati tourists during the first seven months of 2015 compared with 2014. Tourists to Egypt from the KSA increased by 53.1 per cent, ranking them in fourth place in terms of tourism arrivals, while Kuwaiti tourists increased by 41.4 per cent, coming in eighth in terms of the number of tourists and nights spent in Egypt during the first seven months of 2015.

Leading the team at ETA’s brand new office in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, Ahmed Ali commented on these figures, saying: “This success coincides with the opening of the Suez Canal in August, which reflects positively on the tourism sector, and shows Egypt’s ability to welcome visitors from around the world and make them feel at home. In particular, the cities of Suez, Ismailia, and Port Said have become distinctive tourist destinations, as they are full of natural landmarks and unique artifacts for all tourists to enjoy.”

ONWARD AND UPWARD

As Egypt continues to forge a positive path towards a successful tourism future, large-scale international hotel chains are showing their faith in the destination’s appeal with highly-anticipated openings taking centre stage across the North African nation.

According to data from MEED, the line-up of projects planned or underway in Egypt makes up a total of nine hotels and resorts, including the $1,653 million Emaar Misr Marassi Beach Resort project on the north coast; a $120 million Four Seasons Hotel in Luxor; and Tabarak Holding’s $150 million Fantasia Resort in Marsa Alam.

Currently managing properties in Egypt, as well as eight Nile cruise ships, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts is growing its presence in Egypt as senior vice president, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts Africa, Alan O’Dea told TTG: “We are currently preparing the opening of our new flagship in Aswan, adding another 170 rooms to our existing hotel in the historical city. The new extension is located on its own island offering state-of-the-art meeting facilities and a spectacular view of the Nile. Mövenpick Resort Taba is also reopening after restoration following flood damage in 2014.”

Hilton Worldwide is also planning an expansion of its already large portfolio of hotels in Egypt, with the scheduled opening of a DoubleTree by Hilton branded property, as well as a third Hilton hotel in the city of Alexandria.

Commenting on the openings, vice president of operations, Egypt and Levant, Hilton Worldwide, Christian Muhr told TTG: “In February 2015, we announced our first DoubleTree by Hilton in Egypt – located in the east coast location of Ain Al Sokhna and projected to open by 2017.

“We are also planning to officially open our latest addition, Hilton Alexandria King’s Ranch Hotel, during November 2015. The hotel is our third property in the beautiful city of Alexandria and our 18th across Egypt. Among other world-class facilities, amenities and F&B outlets, the hotel will house Egypt’s biggest medical spa and Alexandria’s largest outdoor pool,” he added.

PILGRIMS AND SUN WORSHIPPERS

With major players renewing their belief in the power of Egypt’s tourism appeal, the industry is seeing a slow yet steady pick up of business in certain areas and sectors.

According to chairman, Nature Travel Egypt, Gasser Riad, the company’s most requested tours at the moment are the Holy Land pilgrimage journeys which are proving popular among domestic travellers from Egypt, as well as foreign arrivals from the Far East.

Commenting on Egypt’s religious tourism potential Muhr said: “According to the World Tourism Organization, an estimated 300 to 330 million pilgrims visit the world’s key religious sites every year and Egypt has rich offerings when it comes to religious tourism with great monuments dating back to different Islamic eras.

“Moreover, besides Islamic heritage, Egypt also has multi-denominational sites and monuments such as Saint Catherine monastery, the Hanging Church – one of the oldest churches in Egypt – and Mount Sinai. As such, there’s great potential to occupy a leading position among other countries in this type of tourism.”

Competing for the attention of the travellers visiting Egypt, the Red Sea and coastal areas of the country are also doing well in recent times as deputy marketing manager, Citystars Properties, Safinaz AbdulMannan explained to TTG: “During the past three years, tourism has been focused on the coastal areas, targeting tourists from Europe and Russia. Coastal areas like Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada receive charter flights arriving from Europe specifically Germany and the UK. The Russians also represent a large segment.”

Assistant managing director, Eastmar Group, Youssef Fayez has also witnessed an increase in tourism to the Red Sea as he told TTG: “We have noticed that the Red Sea business is doing a lot better than the rest of the country. At the moment Egypt is only attracting budget travellers who come and spend a week or two at the Red Sea. All classical tourism has been put on hold for the past few years. The trend is budget, but coming from many different countries. The Russian and UK markets are still clearly in the lead.”

Testament to the fact that Egypt really is one of the world’s leading travel and tourism destinations, the country continues to forge its way forwards, focusing on promoting a multitude of attractions such as the Red Sea coast line and a wealth of religious sites, to return the country to its former tourism glory.