Egypt’s strategy to market a wider range of Red Sea resorts to British holidaymakers due to the ongoing ban on UK flights to Sharm-el-Sheikh is bearing fruit, the country’s minister for tourism has said.
Tourists are coming back to Egypt “in good numbers” across more destinations than ever, Egyptian minister of tourism Dr Rania al-Mashat told TTG@WTM following a renewed focus on Hurghada, Marsa Alam and Luxor.
The minister said UK tourism to the region remained strong with 40 flights a week to Hurghada and Marsa Alam, up 38% on last year. “From the UK, we’ve not seen a single cancellation,” al-Mashat revealed. “We are confident about the winter season too.”
On Sharm specifically, al-Mashat stressed the country was ready to welcome tourists to Sharm “from all locations”. “The EU is still the largest market,” said al-Mashat. “It’s up to the British authorities to decide [whether to return to Sharm].”
Egypt’s confidence comes during a year that has not been without significant challenges for the country, most notably the deaths of Thomas Cook holidaymakers John and Susan Cooper, who fell fatally ill at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada in August.
The Egyptian authorities have said their deaths were caused by E.coli and have pledged to cooperate with a UK coroner’s investigation into the Coopers’ death.
The country will next month embark on an far-reaching programme to modernise its tourism offering, with a view to achieving all 17 of the UN’s sustainable development goals, which include action on climate change, gender equality and hygiene.
Al-Mashat reiterated Egypt’s efforts to drive up food hygiene standards will start in Hurghada where more than 100 hotels will audited as part of project to improve cleanliness. The programme, she said, would be rolled out to other Red Sea resorts in time.
“Egypt is moving from recovery to rebound,” said al-Mashat. “2017 ended very positively. For 2018, tourists are coming back in good numbers. More importantly, they are coming to different destinations. Traditional destinations are seeing some competition.”
Last year, eight million tourists visited Egypt. In the nine months to September this year, 55% of Egypt’s tourists came from the EU and 30% from Arab markets, with the remaining 12% from Asia and the rest of the world.
Al-Mashat said Egypt would strive to capture a significant proportion of the remaining 12%, especially emerging, “newly-prosperous” nations such as China, Indonesia, India and Sr Lanka.
The country last month launched its new inbound aviation incentive programme, which al-Mashat expects to “create an influx of new flights to various destinations”.
Egypt has been working with airlines since the start of the year, said al-Mashat, to create a scheme that is “open to everyone” and one where airlines are rewarded for the more flights they put on to Egyptian destinations. Additional incentives are available to those airlines putting on flights six hours or longer.
Meanwhile, the long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza is in course to open in 2020. “It’s the only museum with the Pyramids as a backdrop,” said al-Mashat. “Cultural tourism is still very important to Egypt, even when people want more sun and sea.”
The museum will host a “full” Tutankhamun collection featuring more than 5,000 exhibits, some yet unseen, which al-Mashat said would pair with trips to the Red Sea. A new “Sphinx” airport will also open near the museum.