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WTM

BY Rob Gill

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WTM 2017: Egypt recovery picks up pace as arrivals surge

Egypt is enjoying an “exceptional recovery” in tourism arrivals this year due to increased “economic and social stability” that has encouraged European visitors back to the country.

ETA Abu Simbel

The North African destination has been suffering over the last few years following the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 and a series of high-profile terrorist attacks, including the blowing up of a Russian charter jet near Sharm El Sheikh in 2015.

 

But the destination is finally on the road to recovery with visitor numbers rising by 53% during the first nine months of 2017, compared with the same period last year – Egypt is on course to reach eight million international arrivals for the entire year.

 

Although Egypt’s numbers remain significantly lower than the peak year of 2010 when there were 14 million arrivals.

 

Germany is leading the way with 800,000 arrivals between January and September – an increase of 85% on last year. Egyptian tourism officials hope that German tourists could reach the one million mark by the end of the year.

 

But the UK is “lagging behind” other key markets – mainly due to the continued ban by the British government on flying to Sharm El Sheikh airport, which was first instigated due to the aircraft bombing two years ago.

 

Hisham El Demery, chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board, told TTG: “We are complying with international standards on safety and security. I believe Sharm El Sheikh airport is quite safe and much safer than other airports.

 

“We can also customise to every single country’s security requirements. Most countries, except for the UK and Russia, are now flying to Sharm.”

 

Egypt’s UK ambassador Nasser Kamel said the question of why UK airlines could not return to Sharm should be “asked to the UK government”, as the Egyptian government had already completed the upgrading of the airport’s security.

 

“The issue is no longer about security and I have no clear answer to it,” he added. “All other western European countries are now flying to Sharm, including Germany, and all these nations take security very seriously.”

 

Despite Sharm remaining off-limits to UK customers, there has still been a 31% rise in British visitors to Egypt this year, which rose to 230,000 for the first nine months of the year. Holidaymakers have been choosing the Red Sea resorts of Hurghada, Marsa Alam and Quseir as alternatives to Sharm.

 

“Sharm El Sheikh was the number one destination for British visitors - as long as Sharm is still not operating, we don’t expect British numbers to be the same as the numbers from Germany and Italy,” said Kamel. “The UK is lagging behind other destinations.”

 

Egypt’s deputy minister of tourism Dr Adla Ragab said she was “more optimistic” about the continued recovery of Egypt’s tourism business.

 

“Figures show that the efforts being done by the government and private sector were on the right track,” she added.

 

Ragab said they wanted to concentrate on both the “quality and quantity” of visitors, as well as improving the skills of those working in the industry.

 

Other key initiatives include the development of major new tourism resorts, such as New El Alamein City on the Mediterranean coast, and the planned opening in 2018 of the Grand Egypt Museum, near the pyramids in Giza, which will be largest archaeological museum in the world.

 

Egypt also plans to increase the number of nationalities who can receive a visa-on-arrival.

 

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