Egypt’s 2020 vision: 25 million visitors

By Michelle Baran
Egyptian pyramidsEgypt’s tourism minister unveiled an aggressive recovery plan earlier this month, as officials hope that the presidential elections on May 26 and 27 will ease the country’s political tensions and violence and make Egypt attractive to tourists once again.

Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said in an interview with Reuters earlier this month that by 2020 Egypt hopes to welcome more than 25 million tourists annually and bring its annual tourism revenue to $25 billion, double what the country achieved in 2010, its peak year.

Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Big Five Tours and Expeditions, said of that projection, “It is optimistic, and that is what is needed in Egypt. The country needs someone who is bold enough to make such a claim.”

After three years of political violence and instability that has devastated the country’s tourism industry, tour operators are beginning to report a slow uptick in travel requests and bookings in the lead-up to the presidential elections.

“The tourism rebound will accelerate once free and fair elections are successfully completed,” Sanghrajka predicted.

Abercrombie & Kent said recently that within weeks of announcing its President’s Journey to Egypt, a trip hosted by A&K USA President Phil Otterson in March, the inventory sold out.

The company added three more Egypt departures and another President’s Journey in October. The October trip sold out in three days, A&K said. Consequently, the company added five more departures of its Egypt & the Nile itinerary for 2014.

Looking at the challenges Egypt still faces as political turmoil and violent clashes persist, Zaazou’s mandate might seem ambitious. Eventually, it is assumed, Egypt will see its once-booming tourism industry return, but when that recovery will begin depends to a large extent on how the next few months play out politically.

In the meantime, Sanghrajka said, Egypt’s tourism industry needs to focus on how to improve the product on the ground and how to better market it. He suggested that the country continue to invest in excavations in order to have new archaeological discoveries to entice repeat visitors. Additionally, there will eventually have to be less reliance on discounting, Sanghrajka said.

“This is the biggest roadblock in [Zaazou’s] goal of $25 billion in tourism revenue by 2020,” he said. “Tourism numbers can increase, but revenue will not increase at the same pace if Egypt continues to allow such massive discounting.”
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Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly. 
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