Almost 886,000 foreign tourists visited Egypt in July, a 15 percent increase compared to July 2013, which saw just 765,000 international visitors. However, according to state statistics agency CAPMAS, the number is still 32 percent below the 1.3 million tourists recorded in the same month in the peak year 2010.
While visitor numbers rose in July, the total number of nights spent in Egypt by tourists dropped below 6.6 million, compared to more than 6.8 million in July 2013, indicating that tourists spent less time and less money during their stays.
Egypt’s tourism industry, which accounted for as much as 13 percent of the country’s GDP in 2010, has been hit hard by years of political instability.
“We have been in unprecedented crisis, that no other destination in the world has faced. we have been in a crisis, where you could name it a continuous one,” said Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou during a speech at the Euromoney conference last week.
However, the minister said that he is optimistic that the situation will soon turn around, at least when it comes to sun and sea tourism along the coast of the Red Sea. “In the past two months alone we have witnessed a significant interest again, and the flow is coming back,” he said.
Visitor numbers to the Red Sea have been improving, he said, but revenue is still lagging behind, with hotels forced to slash their rates in order to keep rooms filled. An uptick in demand, indicated by July CAPMAS figures, could help to reverse the trend.
“How can I increase the rates if I don’t have the demand? The appetite is down for the destination. You need to create the appetite, you need to get the appetite back, and as you will see that is what we are succeeding in at in the moment,” he said.
Zaazou admitted that cultural tourism is lagging behind, but promised that the government has a long and short-term strategy to woo tourists back to Egypt’s wealth of historical sites.
“I’m working on that at the moment, because starting November 1 is the real season for it. I have a positive sensation about it,” he said. “I have a sort of cautious positive feeling that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Among other things, Zaazou promised that a set of improvements to visitor services at the Pyramids will be unveiled next month. Along with cleaning up the site, Zaazou promised new mobile toilet facilities, upgraded horse carriages and a staff of multilingual young guides who can answer tourists’ questions and intervene in any disputes between visitors and vendors.
“We’re doing all that now, as I speak, and we will open officially to the world on October 1,” he said.
Zaazou also said the government has a long term plan to develop tourism, which includes developing eight special tourism corridors, to diversify Egypt’s tourism offerings. The first of these corridors is Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, which Zaazou says currently has fewer than 7,000 hotel rooms.
By 2022, the government hopes this strategy will bring in US$25 billion, more than twice the previous record of $12 billion reached in 2010.