Does the Gaza war affect tourism in Egypt? This question was asked by many people after the October 7 attack.
Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Ahmed Issa held a meeting last week at the Ministry’s headquarters in the New Administrative Capital with media personnel to reply to this question in numbers.
He said, “300,000 tourists visited Egypt the week before October 11.
“The growth achieved by Egyptian tourism this year until the end of October is 8 per cent higher than the growth rate of global tourism,” he added.
“This October is higher than October of last year by 8 per cent. It is the second highest month in history after that of 2010.
“What affected were new bookings for the season (December-January-February). But because of communicating with tour operators and following up with them on a daily and weekly basis that the Egyptian product remains available, booking rates are on their way to returning to their normal levels.”
Issa added that major tour operators expect that 2024 will witness growth in tourism more than 2023, regardless of what happens in Gaza.
“The Egyptian tourist product is a value for money. There is no product in the world for the same money and offers the same experience like Egypt,” he said.
To show that Egypt is safe and was not affected by the Gaza war, the Egyptian Tourism Authority shot short testimonial films for a number of tourists visiting Egypt during and after October 7.
The films showed the tourists enjoying their experience and describing their visit as ‘exceptional’.
He added that CEO of the Authority Amr El-Qadi sent 300 letters and the above-mentioned testimonial films to tour operators of targeted markets to reassure them that nothing changed in Egypt, and it is really safe.
Issa said that there are many factors that make Egypt an attractive destination.
“The geopolitical situation of Egypt: Egypt is a peaceful country. World leaders recognise Egypt’s role in solving issues. Egypt had and will never be part of any conflict,” Issa said.
In addition, he added, most of the countries from Egypt’s targeted market did not make advisory warnings for their citizens to come.
In 2024, he said, 25,000 new rooms are expected to enter the service at the Red Sea, South Sinai and North Coast.
Issa said that the four tourism products that the Ministry is focusing on during the current period are cultural tourism, adventure tourism especially diving, beach tourism, and family tourism.
He recently met with a Saudi delegation led by Commerce Minister Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi. The meeting came within the framework of the ministerial meetings held during the Saudi-Egyptian Business Forum, which was held in Cairo to discuss ways to enhance co-operation between the two countries.
He said that the Saudi market is among the top five countries exporting traffic to Egypt.
The Saudi side discussed the possibility of benefiting from tourism investment opportunities in Egypt and the importance of expanding investment in the field of hotel apartments in Egypt.
Issa said that work is underway on this file to establish smart and fair controls and standards to regulate the work of these hotel apartments.
Ghada Shalaby, Vice Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, said that the tourism resorts preferred by most Arab tourists are the North Coast and El Alamein.
She noted that the tourist season in El Alamein is expected to begin at the end of the month of Ramadan, due in April, which makes this season last longer than usual every year, up to seven months.
Shalaby also highlighted the hotel investment opportunities especially in Luxor, Aswan, South Sinai, the Red Sea, and the West El Alamein region, as well as in establishing floating hotel facilities (Nile Cruise) and hotel accommodation units.
The Ministry is currently working on preparing a new tourism product that provides an opportunity for tourists from the Gulf countries in general and Saudis in particular to visit Egypt.
“The Ministry is in the process of organising a tourist convoy to the cities of Riyadh and Jeddah during the coming period in cooperation with the private sector to discuss preparation mechanisms for this new product,” Shalaby said.
Moreover, Issa said that they are working to make the Egyptian capital a short city break.
“We are working to make Cairo an independent tourism product with all its numerous attractions,” he said.
Issa added that the long-anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum will be open in the coming few months.
Issa invited people to visit the interactive exhibition “Tutankhamun – The Immersive Exhibition”, currently being held at GEM and runs for three months.
He invited people also to visit the museum’s Grand Staircase which was opened on December 1 for trial operation.
Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziry said that a new attraction inside the Saladin Citadel in southern Cairo will be open soon.
They are two of 14 towers of the Citadel in addition to a new restaurant, he said.
Standing on the Muqattam Hill, the Cairo Citadel location gives the visitors the chance of seeing a panoramic view of Cairo with its mosques, streets, buildings and the Giza Pyramids.
Saladin (1137-1193) ordered its construction as a fortress on that high hill. Its construction was finished later during the reign of Sultan Kamel al-Adil (1200–1218) and remained Cairo’s seat for Egypt’s rulers until the 19th century, when it was moved to Abdeen Palace in downtown Cairo.
The Mohamed Ali Mosque is among beautiful monuments in the Citadel which was added to it in the 19th century. It was previously the site of Mamluk palaces.
Another mosque in the Citadel is Al-Naser Mohamed ibn Qalawun Mosque, which was built in 1318 on the site of an Ayyubid mosque.
In September, the Ministry reopened the Süleyman Pasha Mosque inside the Citadel after restoration. This first Ottoman-style mosque in Egypt was built in 1528.
In addition to mosques, the Citadel also includes a number of museums.
Previously, Waziry said, the tour inside the Cairo Citadel usually took about 40 minutes to 50 minutes. But after opening the new attractions, the visit will be extended to take three or four hours.
The Imhotep Museum, which is located at the foot of the Saqqara necropolis, opens on December 3, as another new attraction in the Egyptian capital.
The museum celebrates the ancient Egyptian architect Imhotep, the enforcer of the hierarchical group of King Djoser, as the first to erect a pyramidal building and the first to use stone in the implementation of huge buildings.
Nile tourism is a priority for the ministry, Minister Issa said.
He recently held a meeting with Transport Minister Kamel el-Wazir to discuss ways to maximise this promising tourism product.
To achieve this goal, the two ministries will continue to raise the efficiency of the current Nile marinas and establish new marinas.
The two ministries plan to double the hotel capacity of the floating hotels in the coming years.