Egypt looks forward

With over 8 million visitors, and strong European and regional inbound markets, Egypt’s tourism industry is optimistic for the future, despite recent setbacks

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By  Sarah Campbell Published  October 2, 2005

|~|FSCairoNPPoolL.jpg|~|Hotels in Cairo, like the Four Seasons Cairo Nile Plaza, have enjoyed steady business this year.|~|Take sun, sea and sand, add historical monuments, one of the world’s oldest civilisations, and a seventh wonder of the world, and you would expect to produce a successful tourism product. This is certainly true of Egypt. The North African country receives more tourists than Dubai each year, and has seen constant year on year growth of over 10%. Egypt received 8.2 million visitors in 2004, and has received a total of 24 million tourists in the past four years. Approximately 70% of tourists come from Europe, while intraregional travellers amount to 20%. In total, Egypt’s hotels have recorded 198 million room nights between 2000-2004, a figure that looks set to increase as hotels, especially in Cairo, continue to enjoy higher occupancies. Naturally, recent events in Sharm El Sheikh have dampened visitor levels to the Red Sea coast, but even there, hoteliers remain confident that business will bounce back. “Business was increasing and [we were having] a booming season till the Sharm attacks,” says Marwa Sayed, public relations & communications manager, Crowne Plaza Resort Sharm El Sheikh. “Definitely [business was] harmfully affected, but now we can say that it’s better than we expected, and has started to pick up very fast. We can tell that things will be back to normal as of the first of November,” she predicts. Business at hotels across the Red Sea and Sinai Peninsula has been affected by the bomb attacks at Naama Bay in July. Prior to the attacks, many hotels were enjoying a record year of business. Since then, occupancies have dropped to 60% from year averages of 90%. However, Egypt’s minister of tourism, Ahmed el Maghraby, is certain that business levels will return. At the opening of the 6th Mediterranean Travel Fair (MTF), which took place September 6-8 at the Cairo International Conference Centre in Nasr City, el Mahraby indicated the crisis is truly over. “To say that Sharm el Sheikh is in crisis is incorrect. I have every confidence that the demand will build up in the coming months until the end of the year. We shall bring the numbers up to previous levels and it will be impressive. Egypt’s numbers will be higher compared to that of our neighbours,” Maghraby told eTurboNews. One market that is earmarked for future growth is the German leisure traveller. German ambassador to Egypt Martin Koebler has said that he expects the number of German tourists who are to visit Egypt during the winter season to hit one million, an increase of 300,000 over previous years. With this in mind, hotels and hotel developers are continuing to develop their products. The Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh has added a number of daily changing activities, such as a complimentary introduction to tennis, tennis clinic, aqua gym, and an introduction to diving. Similarly, the Radisson SAS Taba has added a new range of sports facilities. The hotel, located on the banks of the Red Sea, now offers a range of water sports activities and entertainment, in co-operation with the Red Sea Waterworld Diving Centre. The beach resort is able to offer horseback riding, quad biking, archery and games on a multipurpose court. “We have added these leisure activities in an effort to add more value to our guests’ holiday by offering more fun for both the young kids and grown ups,” says Johan Aschan, general manager, Radisson SAS Resort, Taba. Resort developments are also taking shape. Port Ghalib saw the opening of its first hotel, the Coral Beach Diving Hotel, managed by Millennium, in July. Meanwhile, El Gouna is looking forward to welcoming Club Med to the fold, along with a new Angsana Spa, managed by Mövenpick. The El Gouna resort currently includes 14 hotels, ranging from guesthouses to five-star beachfront resorts. Its latest addition, the Club Med El Gouna, opened on September 17. “This new development was a huge addition to El Gouna’s success in the European market in general and the French market in particular,” says Daniel Breitbach, public relations co-ordinator, Orascom Hotels & Development, developer of El Gouna. The Angsana Spa El Gouna opened at the El Gouna Mövenpick Resort in August. “Boasting 120 new accommodations in the elegant Hill Villas, the Mövenpick Spa extension offers all kinds of beauty massages, sauna, and steam bath treatments,” Breitbach adds. Away from the Red Sea and Egypt is also developing its tourism product in Luxor and Cairo. Plans for a new railway linking Luxor and Hurghada were announced by the Egypt Railway Authority in May. Meanwhile, in Cairo work is underway to add a third terminal to the international airport. Cairo’s hotels have continued to enjoy success throughout 2005. Hotels in downtown Cairo have recorded occupancies over 72% since 1992, according to the recent HVS International Hotel Market Review and Assessment — Cairo report. Meanwhile, the Heliopolis and Pyramids sectors of the city have also fared well. “The Heliopolis market has traditionally proved to be the strongest in Cairo due to its healthy reliance on business demand. Although 40% of the demand is leisure oriented the average length of stay of leisure guests tends to be lower than in downtown Cairo,” reports HVS. The Pyramids market is, naturally, more leisure orientated. In 2004, hotels at the Pyramids achieved 73% occupancy, an increase of 12% over 2003. Average rate in the Pyramids market in 2004 increased by 9%, from US $38 to US $42. At Le Meridien Pyramids, work has just finished on refurbishment of all bedrooms. The 548-room property now plans to begin work to upgrade its public areas and restaurants. “Our main markets are Western Europe followed by the Gulf and the Far East,” says Barry Curran, general manager of Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel. “The first half of the year was on track with expectations and up on last year. There is no question that Egypt has suffered a decline in inbound leisure business following the incident in Sharm el Sheikh. Its probably fair to say that Cairo has suffered less than the Red Sea and we are hoping that our business will rebound fairly quickly.” It seems that business is on track for hotels and tourism developments in Egypt, despite setbacks encountered earlier in the year. According to World Travel and Tourism Council’s 2005 forecasts, Egypt is one of the leading travel and tourism economies in the Middle East, and indeed in the world, ranking second and 14th respectively in 2005 in terms of projected annual increase of total demand. Egypt is predicted to increase international arrivals to 13.4 million per year by 2011, and generate more than 223,000 more jobs in its travel and tourism industry. Certainly, as far as hotels are concerned, the future looks bright.||**||

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