King Tut Museum – Photo Courtesy of the official Egyptian Museum website King Tut Museum – Photo Courtesy of the official Egyptian Museum website

Bringing Tourists Back: The best way forward for the industry

Wed, Mar. 7, 2018
CAIRO – 7 March 2018: The recent revival of Egypt’s tourism sector has driven many to discuss what needs to be done to ensure the continuation of growth. Between diversifying types of tours, training, running campaigns to alter behavior toward tourists, or even rolling out incentives to ensure regular flights to Egypt, there is plenty yet to be done.

While all experts interviewed for this piece were optimistic about the new Minister of Tourism Rania El-Mashat, and believe that Egypt is on the right track for full recovery and an even stronger tourism industry than before, they all agreed that there are key issues to be addressed to sustain the increased inflow of tourists. It is also key, most of them argue, to keep reminding the world that Egypt is politically and economically stable.

Although this has been enforced time and again by campaigns and influencer marketers, as well as through a media partnership with CNN, Egypt needs to continue radiating its stability to the world and reminding the international community that is has regained its leadership role in North Africa and the Arab world.

Diversification of tours

All experts unanimously said that there is an urgent need to maximise the types of tourism programs for an uptick in tourist inflows to occur. “We need to introduce new types of tourism including medical, the Holy Family and MICE [meeting, incentive, conference and events],” Chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board (ETPB) Hisham el-Demery told us.

Similarly, Magdy Saleh, the head of the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Tourism in Hurghada, calls for an increase in religious events and festivals to attract tourists. “We have forgotten that Egypt is the land of religions,” he says. “Between Mount Moses, the Holy Family tour, and many other heavenly locations in Egypt, Egypt has the potential to rebrand itself from being [solely] a beach-and-monument destination.”

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FILE - Holy Family Trip in Egypt

Counsellor to the Minister of Tourism Walid El-Batouty explains that we need new ideas, and we need to be updated to revive the tourism sectors, citing two new initiatives that have attracted many guests so far. Run by Art D’Egypte’s founder Nadine Abdel Ghaffar, the first initiative is “Eternal Light. Something Old, Something New,” which took place at the Egyptian Museum, and managed to gain much interest. The exhibition displayed 16 artworks of Egypt’s most prominent contemporary artists, creating a wonderful contrast against the timeless backdrop of artefacts in the museum. Displayed pieces were influenced by ancient Egypt’s art and artists, like Mohamed Abla.

The second event, run by El-Batouty, is called “Night at the Museum” and is expected to be a great success, as Egyptians and tourists started buying tickets for the event shortly after its market release. El-Batouty explained that the event is adapted from the famous movie series by the same name and that the event will be a tour of the Egyptian Museum during the evening headed by him.

El-Batouty also suggests transforming El-Moez Street to an arts and music venue, where licensed artists can play music and draw caricatures.

Staff development and training

Chairman and CEO of Emeco Travel, former head of the Egyptian Tourism Federation and former Chairman of Tourism Chambers Elhamy El-Zayat explains that one of the top priorities in the tourism sector for the next period is training. El-Zayat adds that because there is no language-proficiency requirement for most hospitality-degree admissions, graduates are often left with poor
English skills.

He adds that funds do exist to train people working in the sector, indicating that money for training has been allocated ever since former Minister of Tourism Fouad Sultan (1985-1993) was in office. To reach a higher level of service and communicate better with tourists, El-Zayat, El-Batouty and Demery all call for training.

“We need to make sure that people have a good time. Traveling is an experience. You have to make sure that when tourists come, they will find good English, service and information. It is the guide’s role to show the best of Egypt,” says El-Batouty. “Tour guides are in a great position to generate more business for themselves and for the country by showing the best of Egypt. A guide makes it or breaks it.”

In addition to language and technical abilities, Saleh says there’s a need to improve the organization of services offered to tourists. He explains, for instance, that the crowds of taxi drivers at Cairo International Airport’s arrival halls is a chaotic scene for someone stepping out of the airport to be greeted by flocks of drivers shouting randomly at him. “There is need for a policy to organise taxis at the airport better,” he adds. Similarly, Demery would love to see “a global awareness campaign on how to treat tourists.”

FILE – Elhamy El-Zayat, Chairman and CEO of Emeco Travel, former head of the Egyptian Tourism Federation and former Chairman of Tourism Chambers

Airline incentives and discounted domestic flights

To increase flights to Egypt, experts argue that there should be incentives offered to airlines, all the while implementing subsidies to EgyptAir and Air Cairo’s domestic flights to encourage domestic and multi-destination tourism.

“We should not wait until tourists’ arrivals start returning to normal levels, we need to be ready,” Saleh argues. “Subsidizing internal flights means that tourists are likely to fly to more destinations within Egypt, which translates to more money being generated.” Subsidizing domestic flights on Egyptian carriers also means that money is not paid to non-Egyptian carriers, he elaborates, meaning that Egypt benefits both ways.

Less bureaucracy and updating the process

Demery believes that there are many great ideas and that people are energetic and enthusiastic to implement them, but to do that, bureaucracy needs to be addressed and the processes need to be upgraded. To keep up with the digital world today, one needs to take actions quicker and keep up with trends, he says, and so we need to be constantly updating our systems to keep up with international trends and needs.

During her first meeting with investors in the tourism sector, Rania El-Mashat, the new minister of tourism, has indicated that she is set on building a newer administrative framework for the sector to allow processes to go smoother and quicker. El-Mashat said that she intends to build a system that would move the sector forward, leading it to be a case study for the international community to take lessons from.

El-Mashat spoke about setting up a councillors’ committee, increasing marketing to change Egypt’s image abroad, focusing on human development, establishing a more efficient administrative framework and establishing a policy for travel companies sending pilgrims for Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage) in Saudi Arabia. El-Mashat’s priorities seem to be in line with those of players in the field, leaving many optimistic about the new direction the ministry is expected to go in.

FILE – Minister of Tourism, Rania El-Mashat

Allowing loans from Egyptian banks and increasing investments

To ensure that the sector keeps growing and accommodate the expected increase in tourist inflows, El-Zayat believes that investors should be allowed to take loans from Egyptian banks. The fact that the door was shut in recent years, he explains, led many investors to downsize their businesses, leaving many unemployed. To maintain the growing tourism sector, investors should be able to rely on banks when needed, El-Zayat suggests.

Calls of increased high-quality investments also came from El-Batouty, who indicates that good investments always make money for Egypt, as well as for the investor. El-Batouty gave Cosmos, an Egypt-based travel company that partners with Viking USA, as a successful model that played a role in tourists’ return to Egypt by providing high-quality services, portraying a positive image of tourism in Egypt.

Working together

Working together, according to El-Batouty and Demery, will allow the tourism sector to come back faster; it would also allow for constructive criticism and quick development, a point Saleh agrees with.

Saleh suggests a monthly meeting between the heads of the tourism sector and investors and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to discuss developments, opportunities and ideas. All parties in the sector meeting every month would increase the sector’s exposure and accountability, as well as ensuring they all work together, Saleh elaborates.

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