Egypt has long enjoyed a prime position as a leading tourism hotspot on a global scale, and now, buoyed by optimism, resilience and an unmatched product, the industry is continuing on a path of progress. Emily Millett writes.
Utterly unique in a region where over-development often risks replacing authenticity, Egypt will always have unmatched appeal as a tourism destination. And despite the challenges being thrown at the country recently, the industry remains positive, upbeat and optimistic about a return to glory and expectations for further growth in the future.
Indeed, Egypt’s staying power as a tourism hot spot can be seen in the destination’s continued popularity amongst old and new markets.
“Over the years Baron Hotels & Resorts has been widely serving a great variety of markets with different nationalities, providing them with top luxury service,” said vice president, Baron Hotels and Resorts, Sherif Shahein. “And obviously there are many tourists from different countries who show their sincere interest in what we are offering, such as the Gulf, Germany, the UK, Austria, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg.”
And although some of the traditional feeder markets to Egypt have decreased of late, new visitors are arriving in their place, as general manager, Golden Tulip Flamenco Cairo, Oscar Lancken commented: “The majority of tourists to Egypt now come from Central and Eastern Europe. In Cairo we now have a good volume of Gulf State clients. For these clients we offer the Zamalek area at competitive rates and excellent service and value. We have a good number of regular clients and every year we gain new guests. For the Quseir and Red Sea hotels we have the central European guests as our main source of guests.”
Ready for the influx of new guests from Central and Eastern Europe and the Gulf, Flamenco Cairo has recently finalised refreshing its rooms and public areas.
Travel and tourism professionals in Egypt remain optimistic that the traditional markets will return, with a number of European destinations restarting flights to the North African country.
“Tourism from Europe to Egypt is poised to gain pace again,” said general manager, Hyatt Regency Sharm El Sheikh, Mohammad Labban. “Italy restarted its operations with 11 direct flights to Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, as did 30 flights from Ukraine and two flights from Belgium. In addition, Germany now operates two flights weekly.
Hyatt Regency Sharm El Sheikh is working closely with its tour operator partners for the eminent return of the European flights according to Labban, who added: “This is a momentous time for Egypt as we focus on longer-term investments and the development of tourism in our beloved country. Especially since decline in demand in destinations like Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada, caused partially by the high airline prices, is pushing the trend towards Cairo and Alexandria.”
In an optimistic twist of fate, Egypt’s challenges have seen a larger number of travellers from the MENA region entering the country as Labban said: “The demographics coming from the Gulf States have changed and Egypt must be prepared to welcome a larger share of the Arab market. Most of the Arab tourists are familiar with the country, many have their homes here, and have attended colleges here and so are more comfortable than tourists from other countries. Such significant opportunities come to boost occupancy in several destinations like Marsa Alam.
“The region is a promising touristic area owing to its huge resources, such as expansive diving areas with stunning coral reefs, and therefore faces many future opportunities for expansion by offering global travellers a diversity of options.”
Hyatt Regency Sharm El Sheikh is focusing on the expanding Gulf and Arab market by offering constant promotions, marketing campaigns and tailor made services to fit their tastes.
Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts has also seen an upward trajectory in domestic and regional tourism recently, as the group’s vice president of sales and marketing for Africa, Teri Friesen, commented: “We have also seen a tremendous increase in demand from new source markets such as Jordan, Kuwait, the GCC, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, China and Japan. Our guests from Jordan, Kuwait, the GCC and the KSA tend to be families enjoying holiday time together. Travellers from these markets find the proximity to be convenient as well as a shared cultural understanding.”
In response to the needs of the domestic market Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts in Egypt is shifting some of its focus from the leisure segment, towards the business, meetings and events sector, while maintaining diversity in its dining and entertainment offerings, which, according to Friesen, is important to the domestic travellers.
“We have also seen positive growth in the wedding segment and of course we also enjoy the loyalty of expat couples and families living in Egypt who see that Mövenpick offers a variety of resorts and locations so they can take short weekend breaks or longer escapes to several different destinations,” said Friesen.
Alongside this increase in the domestic market, Egypt is also seeing an interesting boost to its luxury segment as Shahein of Baron Hotels and Resorts, explained: “The overwhelming trend in Egyptian tourism nowadays is directed at the position of Egypt as one of the most luxurious benchmark destinations in the world, with a spotlight on the magnificent, attractive touristic spots under the trendy campaign #thisisegypt.”
Ensuring its luxury product is up-to-date, Baron Hotel Cairo has been undergoing some improvements including a new extension. The hotel has been totally upgraded to a boutique style business hotel and now includes a swimming pool, more rooms, restaurants, meeting rooms and outlets.
The increased demand in luxury travel to Egypt has prompted companies such as Crocodile Egypt Travel to branch out and enhance their services.
“We’re working on penetrating the market of aviation chartering and brokerage as demand for aviation services is still witnessing a slight increase in the region,” said general manager, Crocodile Egypt Travel, Ehab Malek. “Providing services for VIPs and high profile principals is also a unique area for which we are now providing.”
While Egypt’s stunning coastline is helping the destination stay popular, the country’s unmatched history and unique monuments also serve as a constant pull for tourists.
Commenting on the need to preserve this area of the industry, Malek told TTG: “Destination management agencies should submit proposals to the Egyptian government, to manage Egyptian touristic sites in order that they run efficiently as in any other developed nation.”
Aware of the draw that its antiquities hold amongst a global travelling public, Egypt is focusing attention on further enhancing this product as former Minister of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass said: “We are currently scanning the Valley of the Kings to look for the missing tombs. We are using very sophisticated techniques, with modern machines that show us what is under the ground. We hope to find the tombs of Ramesses VIII and Thutmoses II as well as the queens of dynasty XXVIII. There is a need for the preservation of the monuments.”
Playing to its strengths, Egypt continues to overcome the challenges placed in its path, drawing diversified crowds and witnessing increases in new markets.