With a record 9.7 million visitors in the year 2006-07, tourism numbers are well on target in Egypt.
The numbers reflect a 13 per cent increase on the previous fiscal year, the state news agency MENA reported. Egypt’s fiscal year runs from July to June.
The visitors brought revenues of $8.2 billion to the country, a 14 per cent increase on the $7.2 billion yield of the previous year, thus preserving tourism’s status as a major contributor to Egypt’s economy, along with oil and gas exports, Suez Canal transit fees and remittances from Egyptians working abroad.
MENA quoted Tourism Minister Zoheir Garanah as saying the visitors spent a cumulative total of 92.3 million nights in Egypt, 8.5 per cent up on 85.1 million in 2005-06.
Garanah says the number of tourists is depended on stability in ME and the funds invested by the government in infrastructure for the tourism sector.
The year began well for Egypt, with results for the first four months of 2007 pointing to a stronger-than-expected increase of 14 per cent in international tourist arrivals.
The most recent monthly numbers available are for July, which saw one million tourists of various nationalities converge on Egypt, an increase of 20 per cent from the corresponding period last year, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.
“Tourist nights reached more than 8.9 million in July, up 18.4 per cent from the same period in 2006,” the agency’s chairman Abu Bakr Gendi said in statements that were included in the agency’s tourism bulletin.
Sixty per cent of the coming tourists were European. “Tourists from Mideast countries came in the second place,” he added. “Around 276,574 Arab tourists visited Egypt in July, up 2.9 per cent from the corresponding period last year,” he added.
The government hopes to receive 14 million visitors a year by 2011. According to earlier statements form Garanah, the country has a target of 140 million tourist nights, while hotel room capacity is expected to rise to 240,000 rooms by 2011 through various upgrading plans.
At present, Egypt has 183,000 hotel rooms, and another 130,000 are already under construction.
The ministry plans to attract tourists for safari, golf, yachts, conferences, shopping and treatment, according to the report.
The ministry also plans to encourage tourist investments and promote tourist services as well.
The Egyptian Tourism Authority has already set its sights further and wants to bring in 16 million tourists by 2014.
The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that tourism into Egypt will grow at the rate of six per cent per year over the next decade.
In 2006, inbound visitor numbers were 9.1 million, an increase of 5.5 per cent over the previous year, well over the global growth rate of 4.1 per cent.
In 2006, the UK was the leading contributor of visitors, sending in 1.03 million, followed by Russia and Germany at just under a million, and then Italy and France. Interestingly, US visitors are returning to the North African country, and the number of Americans travelling to Egypt in 2006 soared to 228,165, a 16 per cent increase over 195,800 visitors in 2005.
The Arab world has contributed 15 per cent more visitors to Egypt in 2006 than in the previous year, in part due to successful marketing and increased connectivity. Libyan tourists numbered 443,000, while Saudi Arabia sent in 388,000.
Almost 28 per cent of tourist overnights were realised by visitors from the Arab market, according to the Egyptian Tourism Authority. Arabs have been traditionally motivated to visit big Egyptian cities, such as Cairo and Alexandria, but for the last two years have been going to resorts such as Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada, a trend that looks set to continue.
The country is investing more in tourism-related projects to broaden its regional and international appeal and complement its abundant ancient history, pristine coastlines and cosmopolitan cities.
Investors pumping money into Egypt include firms from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, both considered among the most important investors into the country.
Emaar is developing a $1.7bn mixed use project in Egypt, Marassi, located on a 7km strip of land at Sidi Abdel Rahman and Alamein. It will see nearly 3,000 hotel rooms, a marina, golf course, hospital, healthcare facilities as well as other developments. The project is expected to take more than five years to complete.
Work continues on Emaar’s other projects including the EGP22 billion ($4 billion) master planned community at the highest point of downtown Cairo - Uptown Cairo.
Net direct investment in Egypt nearly doubled in the financial year ending in June to $11.1 billion, helped by deals such as state-owned Abu Dhabi Investment Authority's purchase of an eight per cent stake in Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes in May.
About 40 percent of total foreign direct investment in Egypt last fiscal year came from the Gulf, said Simon Kitchen, economist at EFG-Hermes.
The country’s north coast is one of its fastest growing fastest-growing luxury hospitality areas, with projects sprouting from the real estate boom in Alexandria and stretching 525 kilometres west to the Libyan border.
Among the projects are five new hotels. The Almaza Bay Resort, being developed by the Travco Group, will ultimately contain 2,300 guest rooms and 1,000 residential and tourist villas on completion.
A tennis academy, shopping mall, golf course, spa, horseback riding tracks and movie theatre are also on the drawing board.
In Alexandria, meanwhile, work continues on the Bibilotheca Alexandria for a major waterfront redevelopment project that will provide a spectrum of facilities on Kouta Land on the west of the library and provide another dimension to the already-popular historic old east harbour area.
The project is envisaged to be part of a broader vision that will contain four and five-star hotels and include conference, exhibition and retail facilities, office spaces, residential buildings, an aquarium, museums and cultural buildings. Alexandria’s tourism profile has been bolstered by the planned development of the San Stefano complex, which has just seen the opening of a new Four Seasons property.
Further west, Porto Marina, the first international class marina on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, will be able to accommodate jet skis, 100-metre yachts and boast a 1,000-berth marina on completion.
Shore facilities within walking distance include a shopping mall, 10 restaurants, a cinema complex, five- star hotel, golf course, horse riding, swimming pools and desert excursions.
The biggest stand-alone project, being built at Port Ghalib along 18 kilometres of Rea Sea shoreline, is the brainchild of developer and investor, the Al-Kharafi Group of Kuwait.
The integrated community will contain a bustling town centre, busy promenades with shops, boutiques, restaurants, bistros, cafes, as well as galleries and entertainment for all ages.
Another upcoming Red Sea investment will see Jordan-based Al Shahin Group for Investments build a $300 million resort and marina at Sahl Hashish.
By Prachi Parihar
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