Egypt battles uncertainties

Facing a drop in tourism income, Egyptian hotels and airlines attempt to ease their way through the difficulties.

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By  John Irish Published  April 2, 2003

Egypt’s Tourism Minister Mamdouh El Beltagi yesterday (April 02) claimed that the country’s tourism revenues could drop by more than 35% due to the instability in the Gulf.

The latest statement comes just weeks after Egypt announced an unexpected rise in tourists for the months of January and February, when foreign tourists numbered 828,000, a large rise on the previous year, which saw 595,000 visitors during the same period.

However, since the outbreak of war in Iraq, Egypt has seen a sharp decline in visitors, with Beltagi suggesting that tourism revenues could fall by as much as 38% to US $2.25 billion in 2003.

“As soon as the weapons inspectors were ordered to leave Iraq and President George Bush [gave] his ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq within 48 hours, travel reservations completely stopped,” said Elhamy Al Zayat, chairman of the Egyptian Federation of Travel Chambers.

He added that the number of foreign tourists had immediately dropped by 40% and that consequently tourist revenues had fallen by 50%.

Despite the downturn in the tourism sector, both JW Marriott and Egyptair followed the Tourism Minister’s comments by announcing some lucrative projects in an attempt to highlight that things were very much business as usual in the land of the Pharaohs.

JW Marriott opened its third hotel in the Middle East, the 5-star luxury resort, Mirage City in Cairo. The hotel offers 428 bedrooms with internet access, the first such project in the Egyptian capital. It also features, according to the Marriott group, one of the largest on site health spas in the world (80,000 square feet) as well as an 18 hole Championship Golf course.

“This JW Marriott Hotel offers refined levels of luxury with the comprehensive business facilities expected by the business traveller, while offering a vast choice of restaurants, bars, sporting and relaxation facilities, all combining to create a unique, distraction free environment, conducive to strategic thinking,” said Neal Jones, director of marketing, JW Mariott, Mirage City.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s national carrier, Egyptair, signed a contract with Airbus to buy seven A330-200s in addition to five A320s which are due to be delivered in the next few months. The airline anticipates delivery of the A330-200 aircraft by June 2004. It already operates seven A320s, four A321s, three A340-200s, two A300B4 freighters and seven A300-600 airplanes.

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