Egypt: Europeans Make Up 70 Percent of Egypt’s Tourists

European Union

European Union (Photo credit: erjkprunczýk)

The percentage of European tourists to Egypt has dropped to 70 percent down from the 76 percent of 2010, reported the Middle East News Agency on Thursday.

A delegation from the European Union (EU) visited an Egyptian senior official on Wednesday where they approved an aid to Egypt worth €5 billion.

Informal meetings between Egypt and the EU have been ongoing to discuss strengthening economic ties especially in the field of tourism. The two have recently signed a letter of intent to encourage investment.

Through a series of agreements, Egypt is currently engaged in attempts to revitalize tourism which employs between 12.6 percent of the country’s labor force and represents 11.3 percent of the GDP.

“Despite the drop in tourism, Europeans still represent about 70 percent of tourists to Egypt”, reported the state agency.

Egypt’s tourism was negatively affected by last year’s uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak – especially in light of Islamists demanding to ban alcohol and restrict beaches.

The economy has slightly picked up during the current year as unrest relatively cooled down. Trade between Egypt and the EU represents 35 to 40 percent and is estimated at $33 billion, MENA said, not specifying however what year the figure refers to.

© 2012 Aswat Masriya

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Egypt’s tourism sector still a good business and investment opportunity

Egyptians truly are a friendly bunch, as you’re sure to discover almost within moments of arriving in the country. In fact they’re known across the African continent for their openness and welcoming nature. Even faltering attempts at speaking a little bit of Egyptian Arabic, the language of modern-day Egypt, will be greeted with the deepest of respect and choruses of delight. But if this is not your first trip to the Middle Eastern country, you’ll already know that from experience. If it is your first trip then you may be pleasantly surprised. Any stereotypical imaginings will be quickly consigned to the mental dustbin.

Of course, you’re more interested in international payment services from HSBC or from any of the other major multinational banking giants for that matter which operate throughout this country of some 82 million people. After all, this is a business reconnaissance trip and not a two-week holiday in the Egyptian sun. Having said that, it’s hard not to mix a little bit of pleasure with business in a country where the ancient and the modern sit so comfortably side by side. Come on, this is Egypt, land of pharaohs, pyramids, deserts, bustling markets and 21st century business banking!

Recently, the whole world watched intently as radical change swept through the country. The political landscape, though still peppered with difficulties, has quietened down a great deal now and business is once more attempting to reassert itself and to adjust to the new realities. The signs are looking good. Yet despite the trials and tribulations, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 3.3% in the second quarter of 2012 compared to the same period last year, a reflection of the country’s strong economic diversity. Indeed, the agricultural, industrial and service sectors continued to contribute to GDP growth in relatively equal measure.

Tourism, part of the services sector and a jewel in the crown of the Egyptian economy, remains a good business and investment opportunity.  Not surprisingly, visitor numbers were greatly affected by the recent events in the country. However, all the latest indicators point to a recovering industry giving a much-needed boost to the country’s foreign currency earnings.

According to news agency Reuters, Egypt’s tourism minister Hisham Zaazou is confident tourist numbers next year will match the pre-revolution levels of 2010. Then, 14.5 million people visited Egypt, earning the country $12.5 billion. Now the Egyptian government is aiming even higher, with ambitious plans afoot to attract some 30 million tourists by 2020. Forming part of this is the auctioning of 28 million square meters of land for tourist developments in order to expand the vital industry. “I will start auctioning (the land) maybe next month, and before the end of 2013, all of the 28 million square metres will have been put on offer,” Mr Zaazou told Reuters, adding that the offer had already been met with interest from European and Gulf investors. Some of the sites to be auctioned are to be sold while others will be for lease. Sites due to come up for auction will include Red Sea resorts such as Ain Sokhna and Marsa Allam.

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@africanbrains by Marc Mcilhone

 

Domestic travelers offer lifeline to ailing Egyptian tourism industry

Egypt - Siwa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A small number of tourists recently climbed the crumbling ramparts of Shali fortress to photograph the oasis town of Siwa in Egypt.

Between the 13th to early 20th century the fortress was home to Siwans who lived inside the salt and mud brick walls to protect themselves from marauding Bedouins who came from the north coast and over what is now the nearby Libyan border to steal from and sometimes kill these farming people.

A freak rain storm in the 1930s damaged the walls, which left them now resembling a collapsing sand castle.

This historical and picturesque setting was once a rich hub for local and international tourists, but in in post-revolution Egypt, numbers have decreased.

Until the popular uprising in early 2011, the industry accounted for more than a 10th of Egypt’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but foreign tourists have shown reluctance to return as sporadic unrest continues to haunt the country.

The annual Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha is traditionally a time when Egyptians travel and in Siwa those in the tourist trade were relieved to have full tables in restaurants like Abdu’s.

This low budget eatery is recommended by the Lonely Planet guide book, making it top of the list for backpackers from abroad. But the majority of their income this year has come from domestic tourists.

This is not, according to Siwa Tourist Information Manager Mahdi Hweiti, the most desirable demographic.

”International tourism is better than domestic tourism,” said Hweiti.

”International tourists from Europe rent bikes, buy local handicrafts and they stay in the hotels for long periods, but the domestic tourists, even foreigners who live in Cairo or Alexandria, only come for short periods during the national holidays and they don’t spend much money like the international tourists coming from Europe, Asia or America,” he added.

Hweiti said overseas visitors typically make up some 25 percent of tourist numbers in Siwa.

One group of 50 mid-20-year-olds from Alexandria were in Siwa during the recent Eid al-Adha to experience the western desert and hit the dunes in a convoy of four wheel drives hired locally.

There is plenty of excitement to be had in the “Sea of Sand,” the world’s largest stretch of sand dunes and a place so vast and disorienting that myths perpetuate of whole armies being lost there.

Even experienced drivers can make mistakes on this treacherous terrain, but a short delay provides another great photo opportunity for city visitors who may might not pay the same premium as foreign tourists — Egyptians are famed for their bargaining powers — but restaurant manager and tour organizer Fathi Abdulla said they are highly valuable to the local economy.

“Domestic tourism is very important for Egypt as a whole and for Siwa specifically and all the oases,”’ said Abdulla.

“Domestic tourists come and buy handicrafts and local products, it’s easy to carry as much weight as you like and it’s easy to take it anywhere in Egypt. For international tourists it’s hard to carry heavy weight items while travelling. So each form of tourism has its value,” he added.

While they may spend less per person, local tourists are greater in number and as this year’s earnings show, have been a more reliable source of income for the sector.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Tourist Association is working to recover Egypt’s image and bring visitors back.

Numbers of overseas visitors dropped from 14.5 million in 2010 to 9.8 million in 2011 and earnings fell from two billion U.S. dollars to 1.5.

In early October, Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said he was targeting 11-12 million tourists this year. Zaazou said in the first nine months the country saw 8.8 million visitors.

The first bus made it along the newly built tarmac road in 1985 and the first guide books covered Siwa in 1987. Hweiti founded the tourism office in Siwa in 1996, but he worries about the effect of tourism on the local community.

“The threat when lots of tourists come here is that people here will leave their work in the fields and gardens and nobody will do manual work, everybody will turn to work in safaris, restaurants and handicrafts,” Hweiti said.

“They’ll be tempted by the money. This is a serious threat,” he expressed.

But with a drop-off of 90 percent in visitor numbers since the uprising, according to Hweiti, there is no immediate danger of this.

Agriculture is still the mainstay of the local economy with tourism making up some 20 percent of income, he estimated.

The area around Siwa offers excursions of several hours up to several weeks and the group from Alexandria tried out sand boarding before washing off the sand in first a hot spring, then a cold natural spring set in the middle of desert.

For group organizer Islam Saad from Alexandria, Siwa was a refreshing break from cosmopolitan life and a reminder of a simpler time.

“I came to Siwa because it’s an amazing place and it’s where I have the most fun. It’s a really simple place with lots of lakes and oases,” he said.

“I’m having fun with my friends and we’re spending four days here. We see the simplicity of the houses and how Siwans live. It’s a really nice place and I recommend everybody to come here,” Saad added.

Saad organizes trips like this two or three times a year and he is not alone.

Many Egyptians with disposable income travel and because of the cost of flights and the difficulties in getting visas for foreign travel, domestic trips to places like Siwa are popular.