Egypt set to lead shopping tourism

The Khan Al Khalili in Old Cairo

EGYPTIAN government officials have confirmed that visitor numbers to the country are increasing dramatically, thanks in large part to Gulf Arabs who make their way to the region’s largest country for short breaks designed to take advantage of world class shopping now on offer.

“Shopping has now become an important part of the holiday experience,” said Zoheir Gharana, Minister of Tourism. “Egypt appeals to tourists not only for its cultural sites, but now for its shopping – be it the latest trends in Italian fashion or Egyptian-made fine goods.”
Best known for its rich history, sandy beaches, and vibrant culture, Egypt is moving quickly to include shopping as a key attraction in its tourism portfolio. Recent economic reforms have stimulated the emergence of new malls, the deregulation of foreign textiles and an ever-growing number of tourists, all of which put Egypt at the forefront of an increasingly competitive regional shopping tourism segment.
“This past year, Egypt posted record-breaking numbers with 8.1 million tourists having visited. From the Gulf alone, tourist numbers have risen over 50 per cent since this time last year, partly due to the many holidaymakers who have chosen Egypt for weekend shopping get-aways,” said Ahmed Khadem, chairman of the Egyptian Tourist Authority.
Since 2005, a number of new malls and retail outlets have opened. The high-end Turkish retailer Beyman offers the latest from European designers in Cairo’s Four Seasons Hotel at Nile Plaza, and the MAF Group’s City Centre Malls are now found in Cairo and Alexandria. A new luxury mall developed by Saudi entrepreneur Sharabatly, City Stars, is the latest hotspot.
Saudi, Kuwait
Over the summer, the tourist trade is set to welcome a record number of Saudi Arabian tourists and Kuwaitis. Tourism figures from the GCC have already shot up 40 per cent in the past year. Most of that growth has been spearheaded by the 361,000 visitors from the kingdom during 2005. During January to April 2006, more than 80,375 Saudis visited Egypt.
Kuwait is the other big regional market for Egypt, accounting for more than 43,000 tourist nights between January and April, a 30 per cent year-on-year increase.
“Egypt’s familiarity helps to make it especially hospitable for Arabs, many of whom seek the comfort of an Arabic-language setting,” said Garannah. Middle Eastern travellers in total account for 20 per cent of all visitors to Egypt with around 1.7 million inbound travellers.
While Cairo and Alexandria had been and remain key destinations, Arab travellers now enjoy a wide variety of luxury resorts outside of the metropolitan centres, scattered along the Red Sea and the North Coast.
Egypt expects an additional one million tourists this year, according to senior government figures.