Cultural tourism in Egypt: Egyptian Tourism Authority is focusing on the cultural Egypt

“The destination Egypt is very beautiful. We have it all. We have sun, sea, desert, nightlife – we have everything. I believe that this kind of diversity is what makes our tourism sector very resilient. I also believe that now we are on the right path politically; we have stability. “

Interview with Ambassador Nasser Hamdy, Former Chairman of Egyptian Tourism Authority

Ambassador Nasser Hamdy, Former Chairman of Egyptian Tourism Authority

We hear about the long term damage to the tourism industry and drops in tourists’ arrivals. As the chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Authority, what is your critical assessment of tourism in Egypt at the moment?

The tourism sector has been badly affected during the last 3 years. However, this sector has shown that it is a very resilient sector in Egypt. So, if we look at the numbers during the last 3 years, we can see and analyze that the numbers have been fluctuating from up to down and so on. This shows its resilience. We have been working on planning a strong and a broader strategy about what we want and what we aim to achieve. At the same time, we are working on the tactics of realizing our goals. At the moment, the situation is much better. We have achieved at least a slight increase in the number of tourists coming to Egypt. This brings us back to the idea of our strategy, which is based on two pillars. The first one is to readjust the image of Egypt and second is to get the number of inbound tourists in Egypt back to the number in 2010. The perception of tourism in Egypt was quite negative. People didn’t realize at a certain time that there are lot safe places in Egypt as well. So, we started to invite security officers to check the stability of the country on ground. At the same, we invited the press to write down reports and to explain what was happening on the ground. This has helped to lift up the negative travel trends as far as Egypt is concerned. Recently almost the entire country has been proved to be safe and so the situation is much better now and is improving.

In relation to this, what would be your outlook for end of 2014 and the coming year? Are things finally looking up for Egypt tourism? Is tourism back to where it was before?

We cannot say that, but we are aiming to go back to having a very positive trend. Of course, as you know, the tourism sector has been affected, especially because in the West and most of the other countries, reservations are made 3 to 5 months in advance. So, we are now planning to be back in full force by end of 2015. But we have to “prepare the land” as they say, just to reach those numbers back again.

The latest news talk about the Ministry of Tourism’s taking steps to increase security at different tourist sites. Please comment on that.

The Ministry of Tourism, the Internal Ministry, the Military and all security forces definitely cooperate with each other to safeguard all the tourist destinations and to secure our guests while they are here in Egypt. So, a lot of efforts have been taken during the last few months and we are participating and cooperating effectively to fulfill this goal.  

As a part the tourism industry, what would be your general assessment of the MICE tourism?

MICE tourism is very important and the returns of the MICE tourism are very high. Unfortunately, during the last three years, there was a setback. But we are trying to see that the coming years will have more corporate business and more incentive tourism as well. We will be participating in Imax in the United States. In India we are concentrating on the corporate side and in having the MICE business coming back from India, because the number of multinational and corporate business in India and in Asia is very high in general.

Are there any particular areas of Egypt that you are promoting right now?

We do have two main destinations – the Red Sea and the White Sea and the cultural part. The Sea was doing fine. The leisure was doing fine. We can say that it has been affected, but not as much as the cultural one. Of course cultural tourism has been affected, because all the trouble and incidents were happening in Cairo. Cairo is related with Luxor and Aswan. Thus, these were impacted. Now we are concentrating more on the cultural part. Therefore our promotion and our activity are focused more on countries with a big number of cultural tourists, with people more interested in culture.

What is the breakdown of tourists coming to the country? We heard from many sources that the Gulf countries are leading the list at the moment.

At the moment that’s true, because we started a campaign during summer at the beginning of May, because this is the time when you have all the Gulf countries and the Arab countries coming to Egypt. They come during the summer break, the school holidays. So, we started a big campaign called Wahashtouna, which means “we miss you”. We started it on May 1st. We created a lot of packages for our friends from the Gulf area. For instance, you can book a holiday to Egypt starting from 400 dollars. Of course, after President el-Sisi came to power, there has been an improvement in decision-making, because they felt more confident about what’s happening in the country. Therefore the number of tourists in the Arab countries has increased remarkably during the last 3 months. During August it was the peak – when compared to last year we had an increase by 300%. From the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, we have had around 276%, around 167% from Jordan, around 120% from Lebanon. So, we had a remarkable increase in the number of incoming tourists from most of the Arab countries. Of course now the number has dropped, because schools have started in those countries. But we are aiming at the Eid period and the mid-year vacations. So, we practically started a new campaign in the Arab countries on the 15th of September.  

You mentioned that you now want to focus more on promoting the cultural sides. Which countries are you targeting in particular?

We are mainly targeting the British, the Polish, the Italian, the French, the Spanish, the Indian, the Chinese and the Russian market. So, we are focusing more on those markets for the time being. As well as the Latin American market. It is a far-off destination, but we are also focusing on working there as well. We will be having our new ambassador travelling to Latin America for the first time. By the beginning of the year, we will be having our exhibition of Tutankhamun in Mexico, which will go from Mexico to Brazil and from Brazil to Argentina and to most of Latin America. This would be the first visit of Tutankhamun to the Latin American countries.

What would be your vision for the country? How would you describe the destination Egypt?

The destination Egypt is very beautiful. We have it all. We have sun, sea, desert, nightlife – we have everything. I believe that this kind of diversity is what makes our tourism sector very resilient. I also believe that now we are on the right path politically. We have stability. We have our constitution and a new president. So, I hope that this stability will remain. I am sure it will continue like this. I am very confident that we have a bright future ahead. Insha’Allah.


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