Red Sea resorts lure Gulf holidaymakers

Sheraton Miramar El Gouna ... proving popular among Gulf travellers.

Egypt's Red Sea resorts, already popular with European tourists, are set for a major influx of holidaymakers from the Arabian Gulf, according to experts.

The last 18 months have seen a major drive for Gulf tourism from high-profile destinations in Egypt like El Gouna and Sharm El Sheikh, industry authorities have said.

Some tourists are switching from traditional destinations such as Malaysia, Cyprus and Spain to the Red Sea, according to key economic surveys and leading hoteliers.

General managers of five-star Sheraton properties at Sharm El Sheikh and El Gouna, Adel Bibars and Jorg Heyer, respectively, say a strong trend has emerged of Gulf nationals favouring holidays at the Red Sea.

Travel industry experts point out that Egypt has long been a magnet for cultural visitors and leisure travellers. But nowadays, leisure tourism represents Egypt's highest potential for growth with the Red Sea resorts the hub of the activity.

Recent figures show that nearly 75 per cent of tourism activity in Egypt is leisure-orientated - mostly concentrated on Sinai and Red Sea.

Egypt's Ministry of Tourism is keen to foster quality development of the Red Sea. Considerable investment is taking place in the region - with Government and World Bank support.

Sharm El-Sheikh is the largest hotel and tourism community on the Sinai Peninsula, yet until 1987 there were only two hotels there. Now there are more than 350.

Elegant El Gouna has only a handful of hotels, but, spearheaded by Sheraton Miramar, they are renowned as some of the finest in Egypt.

Heyer said Miramar is a major player in the top-tier conference market, as is Sheraton Sharm Hotel.

Heyer says: "The favourable exchange rate makes the Red Sea particularly affordable, people from the Gulf are comfortable with the culture and cuisine in Egypt and the Red Sea resort regions are very safe, efficient and friendly.

"For the cost of three days in what had been traditional holiday spots like Britain and Spain, they can come here for 10 days."