Egypt invests in tourism promotion, hoping to change perceptions

Sunday 18/09/2016
A policeman stands guard in front of the Pyramid of Khufu, the largest of the Great Pyramids of Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt.

Cairo - Egypt is spending millions of dollars to promote its tourist sites internation­ally as optimism is gain­ing larger numbers of foreign tourists will return in the coming months

The Egyptian Tourism Promo­tion Authority said it has struck promotion deals worth $20 mil­lion.

“The deals will open the door for promotion campaigns that will seek to change mental images about Egypt as a tourist destina­tion and security conditions in it,” said Sami Mahmoud, the authori­ty’s head. “They will show foreign­ers that Egypt is safe for them and their families.”

The campaigns are to kick off in November, the traditional begin­ning of the tourist season in Egypt.

The country’s tourism sector has been struggling since October 2015 when a Russian passenger plane was bombed over the Sinai pen­insula only minutes after take-off from Sharm el-Sheikh Internation­al Airport.

A bomb had been planted on board by the Islamic State (ISIS), which is active in Sinai, according to Russian authorities.

The aircraft tragedy prompted flight suspensions to Egypt from major tourism markets Russia, Britain and Italy, crippling a tour­ism sector that contributes almost 11.4% of Egypt’s national income and employs 10.5% of the work force.

The hope is that the new promo­tion campaigns will change the perception that Egypt is not a safe place to visit, according to Adel Ab­del Razik, a member of the Federa­tion of Tourism Chambers, a union of Egyptian travel agencies and ho­tel owners.

“We hope that the campaigns, among other measures, will con­vince tourists to come back,” Abdel Razik said. “It is important that we all join hands so that the tourism sector can overcome its current dif­ficulties.”

Tourism visits in April 2016 were off 74% compared with April 2015, the Tourism Ministry said. In June, 329,000 foreign tourists visited Egypt compared with 820,000 in June last year, the ministry said.

The drop in tourist arrivals and the revenues they generate ex­posed vulnerabilities in the Egyp­tian economy, deprived the nation­al budget of much-needed cash and exacerbated unemployment. To make up for the losses, Egypt will apply a series of austerity measures, slash a sizeable portion of subsidies and obtain a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

The tourism campaigns, accord­ing to Mahmoud, will include ads on major Western TV networks, posters with photos of Egyptian tourist sites and a series of tourist exhibitions.

The first phase of the campaign, which will be managed by the New York-based advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, will include tra­ditional tourist markets, such as Germany, Russia, Britain and Italy. Later phases will add China, India, Japan and Latin America.

Egypt, tourism experts said, has learnt the hard lesson of depend­ing on specific tourist markets.

Close to 3 million Russians a year used to visit Egypt early before the October 2015 passenger plane bombing. About 2 million British tourists and 1 million Italian tour­ists used to travel to Egypt each year. Decisions by those countries’ governments to suspend flights to Egyptian tourist destinations caused serious economic prob­lems.

There are signs the tourism sec­tor is recovering. A Russian secu­rity team arrived to check security measures at Egypt’s airports in ad­vance of Moscow lifting its flight suspension. Turkey’s national car­rier, Turkish Airlines, said it would resume flights to Egypt in October. European airlines are following suit.

The new campaigns, the Egyp­tian Tourism Ministry said, are among several steps to bring tour­ist inflows back to average.

“We have drawn up a long-term plan to bring tourists back to our resorts and tourist sites,” said Omayma el-Husseini, spokes­woman of the Tourism Ministry. “We will make sure that the plan will deliver the word to everybody about Egypt’s tourist attractions.”

Apart from the promotion cam­paigns, Husseini said, a major tour­ism conference in the southern city of Luxor, appearances by interna­tional movie stars and well-known artists in Aswan, Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada and other tourist hotspots and a variety of entertain­ment events are being planned.