Dahab attacks will not affect Sharm’s tourism

The terrorist attacks that took place in the Egyptian tourist resort of Dahab at the end of April will not have any long term impact on the tourism industry of neighbouring Sharm El Sheikh, according to hoteliers working in the Sinai resort.

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By  Sarah Campbell Published  June 1, 2006

The terrorist attacks that took place in the Egyptian tourist resort of Dahab at the end of April will not have any long term impact on the tourism industry of neighbouring Sharm El Sheikh, according to hoteliers working in the Sinai resort. Two restaurants and a souvenir shop were laid to waste at Dahab’s seaside promenade on April 24. The resort is a popular destination with Western backpackers, budget Israeli tourists and scuba divers. However, hoteliers at neighbouring Sharm El Sheikh, which boasts an array of five-star resorts, remain confident for the summer, despite Sharm being the victim of terrorist attacks less than twelve months ago. “Sharm El Sheikh is running at 90% occupancy, and we have experienced few cancellations,” Peter Mainguy, general manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Sharm El Sheikh, told Hotelier Middle East in early May. “The only dip we experienced was that for the first five days following the Dahab attack there was very little activity in forward bookings, but that has picked up,” Mainguy said. Mainguy took over the helm of The Ritz-Carlton, Sharm El Sheikh in May of last year, arriving two months before the Sharm El Sheikh bombings on July 23. He steered the hotel through the aftermath of those attacks, and through carefully targeted marketing managed to end the year on a revenue and occupancy high. Flexibility, he maintains, is the secret to success when dealing with a deflated market and low consumer confidence. “In a charter market, like Sharm El Sheikh, customers are not interested in add-ons. They want rates. We were selling at 35% of what we would normally charge [in August], with flexible conditions. We offered simple promotions, like ‘Book seven nights, pay for five’, with total flexibility: no cancellation charges and no pre payment,” Mainguy explained. Mainguy was on site on the night of July 23 when the Na’ama Bay bombs went off. He says that taking immediate control of the situation proved vital. “The first thing to do is ensure all your guests are safe. The bombs went off at 1am, so 30% of the guests were out in Na’ama Bay. Then you make sure all the staff are safe, and secure the perimeter. We barricaded ourselves in and had highly visible security, which also provides psychological comfort to the guest,” he said. “The next day, 30% of our guests checked out, and within the week we went from 96% occupancy to 45%. It stayed that way for about a month, and then grew steadily so that by November we were back on track.” Mainguy is also proud of the fact that not one member of staff resigned following the event. “We called an immediate staff meeting, and 95% of all staff turned up, wanting to help. I promised them that no one would be fired or put on extended leave. Also, I informed all those with contracts waiting to join the hotel that we would honour their job offers.” His advice for hoteliers in Dahab: “Initially, it is all about containment, staff motivation and internal communication. This is vital. Then you start preparing a [marketing] strategy.”

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