FILE - Minister of Tourism, Rania al-Mashat
CAIRO – 29 December 2018: With some 8.3 million tourists visiting Egypt during 2017, and trajectories suggesting that 2018 will end with more than 10 percent year-on-year increase, at least, Minister of Tourism Rania El-Mashat revealed her five-pillar strategy, called the E-Trip, that is set to rebrand Egypt, better the legislative framework governing the industry and so much more.
A look at the E-Trip
In an interview with Manus Cranny and Tracy Alloway on “Bloomberg Daybreak: Middle East” on November 8, Mashat revealed that Egypt has witnessed a “steep rebound” in the tourism industry, citing the significant increase in the influx of tourists.
Mashat spoke of tourism’s future, its prospects and the work that the government is doing to get the industry back on its feet. She also revealed, “At the end of this month in Parliament, I will be announcing E-Trip: Egypt Reform Program”
Shortly after, Mashat revealed the E-Trip at a Luncheon at the American Chamber of Commerce. The five-pillar strategy is designed to reform and regulate the industry, as well as to ensure its sustainability.
The five pillars start of at an area that has been criticized over and over again by Egyptians and experts, as well as the minister herself: Administrative and legislative reform. Earlier this year, while speaking to more than 10 experts about the problem in the industry, they had all agreed that there is a problem with professionalism and that most workers are not trained well enough to deal with tourists.
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
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, Counsellor to the Minister of Tourism Walid El-Batouty and Chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board (ETPB) Hisham el-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, Magdy Saleh, the head of the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Tourism in Hurghada 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.”
Consequently, the minister has taken a positive step forward and moved towards giving people vocational training, educating them to enable them to deal with tourists well, and teaching them proper etiquette for dealing with visitors. The ministry will look to hire more high-quality professionals who are able to manage work. Moreover, vocational training will be given to those who work in the industry.
The second pillar is one that has also been on the forefront of people’s minds over the past two years: Rebranding Egypt. 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],” Demery told us.
Similarly, Saleh 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.”
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.
Through social media platforms and social media influencers and bloggers, international tourism campaigns and travel Expos, the tourism is working to rebrand the tourism industry in Egypt as a “responsible choice for eco-friendly tourists” and one that “economically empowers women,” revealed the Tourism Minister.
The third pillar is concerned with fining new markets and diversifying the base from which tourists come to visit Egypt, in addition to beefing up cooperations, focused on tourism, with countries that are considered well-established markets.
The fourth pillar concerns upgrading the hospitability infrastructure. To do so, the Tourism Ministry has decided to launch a private equity find. This fund will also be used to upgrade hotels and resorts that have gone out of style or need to be revamped; an issue that experts we spoke to also brought up.
Concerning this pillar, experts had previously told us that 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.
The fifth, and final pillar, concerns an upgrade to the legislative framework that governs the industry as of right now. This is something that has been on Mashat’s mind for a while: 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.
Building on this, Demery told us 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.
Having spoken to sources who called the industry highly bureaucratic, advising that less bureaucracy would help the industry flourish, it sure is a relief to see the fifth pillar of the strategic plan aim to remove bureaucracy and better the legislative framework. The new framework will be an update to a framework that has not been updated in about 40 years, and will see the ministry itself propose ideas for legislative changes.