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Egypt eyes sustainable tourism growth

Article - April 14, 2019

“The aim is to really change the narrative,” says Minister of Tourism, Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, referring to the political, economic and security impacts that had in recent years severely hampered tourist numbers to one of the world’s most popular destinations. However, with more than 11.5 million visitors to the country in 2018 – a return to pre-revolution levels – it appears the recent sectoral reforms implemented by the ministry are already facilitating success.

Yet creating sustainable tourism – the central aim of the reforms – is not just about increasing the number of tourists, explains the minister, it’s about “making sure that the local communities are part of the economic spillover that tourism generates.”

With one in every ten jobs in Egypt coming from the sector, the need to build capacity and develop infrastructure have been identified as areas for achieving sustainable growth. For this, the government is leaning heavily on the private sector.

“The priority must be to continue to build infrastructure,” agrees Khaled Bichara, Group CEO of Orascom Development, a leading developer of fully integrated destinations in Egypt which include hotels, residential units and leisure facilities.  “That’s why at Orascom Development, we build whole towns! In every town we build, there’s residential, touristic, educational, and the commercial component. Our most mature towns have their own hospitals, a university, even its own football team and stadium! It’s basically a complete community.”

“We can do all that our role asks of us, as a community developer,” continues Mr. Bichara, “if we have the right conditions in terms of airport services, roads, power infrastructure, and the political will to promote Egypt as a safe destination – which fortunately, we now do.”

Key tourism players like Orascom will not only look to government to create these necessary conditions for growth, but other industries too, such as the transport sector.

Nile Air is Egypt’s largest private full-service carrier operating scheduled and charter services from Cairo and Alexandria to emerging airports in the region, giving international and domestic visitors easy and comfortable access to many destinations inside Egypt.

“Tourism is helping Egypt bring in foreign capital once again. It’s very important for us,” says Nile Air CEO, Hassan Aziz, stressing that tourism currently represents a third of the airline’s network.

“We have all the safety aspects and quality, including IOSA accreditation – a remarkable certificate to prove that the airline is providing the highest safety standards in the industry.”

With tourism levels rising again to their highest in ten years, Nile Air is ramping up to support industry growth, says Mr. Aziz, highlighting the two new routes from Madrid and Paris to Luxor, as well as a deal in the pipeline with a German partner to link the Red Sea and North Coast of Egypt. The airline is also adding another two Airbus aircrafts in 2020, and another in 2021, bringing its total fleet to 10. However, the sky is the limit in the long term says  Mr. Aziz, with the sustainable development of the communities it serves at the forefront of expansion plans.

“I would like to grow the airline to 20 aircrafts and add more destinations to Nile Air, which will be a huge success for the country. We are part of this country and we must contribute to society. We train, educate, hire, and recruit the Egyptian people. We work in Egypt, so must cater for them.”

Amr Badr, Managing Director at Abercrombie & Kent Egypt, a leading luxury travel company, agrees that the outlook for the Egyptian tourism is once again “extremely positive”.

“Tourism is growing phenomenally,” he says.“The potential is great. Egypt is gifted by the fact that it’s one of the few destinations in the world that is on everybody’s bucket list. Importantly, the country is building the infrastructure to support this. To double our tourism numbers, we’ll have to build more roads, more accommodation, airports, and the manpower capacity. Do we have today the readiness to do it? It’s a challenge – it’s buildup of things that we need to do, but we can do it.”