For the first time since the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, Travel Weekly is sending a reporter to Egypt to help gauge if the country is ready to reignite tourism. Senior editor Michelle Baran, who has been to Egypt three times for Travel Weekly, most recently in March 2011, will be traveling throughout the country with Abercrombie & Kent. Her second dispatch follows; click here to read her first.
You know what's amazing about Egypt? It isn't necessarily an easy place to visit. It's hot, Sahara hot. The vendors are crazy (they've actually mellowed since Egypt's pre-revolutionary tourism heyday). It's a developing country in Africa, with all the infrastructure and logistical problems that that presents. And clearly, the political and security situation can be sketchy at times.
And yet it's always such an overwhelming crowd pleaser. I had dinner in Cairo with a group of travel agents who were at the end of an Egypt fam trip with Abercrombie & Kent just before I began traveling with the four A&K groups I'm now sailing with on the Nile, and I've yet to find someone who doesn't think that Egypt is just incredible. And that goes for almost anyone I have talked to who has been to Egypt.
The agents were still on such a high from their trip, and were eager to get back home and start selling Egypt again. And as I make the rounds among the 65 A&K travelers onboard the 80-passenger Sanctuary Sun Boat IV, everyone is thrilled with what they've seen thus far.
No amount of sweat, developing country grit or bad scarf/bookmark/postcard-hawking tactics seem to ever overshadow the impressiveness of Egypt's famous temples, statues and monuments.
Which isn't a huge surprise for anyone who's been to Egypt. Egypt's archaeological treasures, many of which date back to hundreds and even thousands of years B.C., have withstood the test of time and are the gifts that keep on giving to Egypt's tourism industry -- proof of which has been said industry's ability to consistently rebound from any temporary disaster, no matter how large or small, that stands in its wake.
Unfortunately, investment in the ever-impressive archaeological sites fell by the wayside as the country fell hostage to its political and economic crisis over the past few years. But if all continues to go well under Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the tourism sector will bounce back, and hopefully attention can be returned toward the fruitful cash crop that is Egypt's tourism industry.
In fact, now seems like a very good time for investors and organizations with historical preservation interests to take a closer look at the country's tourism infrastructure and archaeological sites, and better care for and manage them in preparation for what could be a return of large numbers of visitors in the coming years. For instance, some decent walkways, better visitor centers and improved concessions at the sites would be a great start. Hotels could use some spiffing up too. And the opening of the new Egyptian Museum in Giza will go a long way. OK, I'll stop there. You get the idea -- just get ready, Egypt.