Political turbulences and terrorism have highly affected Egypt’s tourism sector, which for the past few years has experienced negative growth.
Arab Spring, which first occurred in 2011 in Tunisia and spread to other countries, among them Egypt, leading to terrorist attacks inside the country as well as regional political instabilities have crippled the sector.
According to an analysis by a global authority on the economic and social contribution of Travel & Tourism, the sector directly affects Egypt’s GDP. In 2014 for example, World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), reported that the contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was EGP117.2bn (US$65.1bn), which is equivalent to 5.9 percent of the GDP.
WTTC predicted that the tourism sector would rise by 3.2 percent to EGP120.96bn (US$67.0bn) in 2015. However, insecurity events such as the downing of the Russian airliner interrupted the growing curve experienced earlier in mid-2014. At a closer look, there were 8.9 million tourists visiting the North African nation in the first 11 months of 2015, compared to 9.1 million visitors in the same period of 2014.
Amidst all these challenges, the Chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board is optimistic that 2017 will be a revolutionary time for the sector. Hisham Al Demery noted that the efforts employed in 2016 will play a major role in reviving the industry.
“Thanks God, we have done very good efforts in 2016. We started dealing with the crisis and the tourism folder with a more organized manner,” Demery told Gulf News. He added that the fourth quarter of 2016 was very promising. He was speaking on the sidelines of the just concluded Arabian Travel Market.
Egypt boasts a number of attraction sites including the unrivaled pharaonic antiquities, serene beaches, among others. Millions of tourists, among them those hailing from Arab countries, flock the country every year to experience the culture and see historical artifacts.
According to the Chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board, visitors from the Arab countries tend to stay longer and are among the top spenders than those from other parts of the world, namely UK, Germany, Italy, and Russia. Thus, Egypt is employing different strategies such as facilitating the visa arrangements to attract and retain more Arab visitors, whose culture and traditions are similar to that of Egyptians.
“We don’t deal with Arab tourists as customers, but rather as people in their second home.”
Changing the narrative on Egypt
Across the globe, people are receiving negative news and information from Egypt. Such news continues to dampen traveler’s mood.
Earlier in the month (April 9), two bombs went off in the Nile Delta of Tanta and then in Alexandria within hours of each other leaving 28 and 18 people dead respectively.
Another example of attacks scaring tourists away is the discrimination and aggression against Christians. Egypt’s Copts make up the largest Christian denomination of the larger Muslim population. Over the years, the religious group has been targeted by Islamist insurgents loyal to ISIS. Some followers have lost life through such attacks- acts that are not only forcing Egyptians to make an exodus from the country but are also keeping prospective visitors away.
To neutralize such stories and revive its image, Egypt has embarked on efforts which comprise a public-relations campaign –to change the already soiled image and an advertising campaign. To do this, the country is inviting celebrities and the media to spread “positive news abroad” on behalf of Egyptian tourism authority. Among celebrities that have made their way into the land of pyramids, include Will Smith, who visited Cairo with his family. Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs also visited Egypt. He brought the UEFA Champions League trophy as part of the #ChampionTheTrophy campaign.
The highlight of these visits is the latest Papal’s first visit to Egypt. While this is not part of the PR campaign, Pope Francis visit to Egypt will contribute to changing the perspective people have on the country. Additionally, Pope’s visit is aimed at reconciling Christians and Muslims who have been living discordantly.
With such elaborate plans set aside to grow tourism, the sector is set to bring in more visitors in the future, especially after the discovery of new archaeological finds in the Arab country.
"It has improved [our] image, improved the curiosity, you know the culture business is helping out the overview of Egypt," Rashed said in an interview with Reuters in Dubai.