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Tourism in the news: € 1.8m grant given to Egypt’s Hotels Chamber to support environmental management systems program

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Egypt’s Hotels Chamber recently received a €1.8m grant from the European Union as part of the latter’s pledge to fund its Environmental Management Systems and Sustainable Tourism Program for hotel facilities and resorts in the Mediterranean Sea basin.

Hala Khatib, general secretary of the Hotels Chamber, said the grant will be used to train workers and prepare them to work and operate in environmentally certified hotels. The program is scheduled to end by the beginning of 2015.

She added the project sought to provide 30 Egyptian hotels with the necessary training required to be environmentally certified according to European standards, which, according to her, would help improve the quality and services of Egyptian tourist facilities.

Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou said that environmentally friendly hotel and resort facilities are the future of Egypt’s tourist sector. He added that environmental tourism was increasing worldwide, currently making up 4% of the world’s total market.

Nashwi Talaat, executive director of the Ministry of Tourism’s Environmental Unit, said green tourism would bring in increased revenues, adding that a number of hotels in Sharm El-Sheikh are currently being equipped to be environmentally friendly at an estimated cost of EGP 1.3bn. These projects are expected to be completed by 2020.

According to recent statistics released by the Ministry of Tourism, the average costs for a stay in a certified environmentally friendly hotel is $100 per night, whereas stays in non-certified hotels average $75 per night.

A source within the hotel sector of the Ministry of Tourism, however, said that many hotels and resorts are reluctant to make the change to clean energy due to high costs. Costs remained high, he said, despite the fact that the ministry had pledged to secure loans from the National Bank of Egypt and the Housing and Development Bank to fund such a transition, at interest rates that did not exceed 7%.

The source rejected claims that the ministry would be able to convert 200,000 new hotel rooms to clean energy within the next five years, considering the financial challenges facing the country and the tourist sector in particular.

A number of recent government decisions have worsened problems facing the sector, he added. Recent increases in diesel subsidies require clean energy sources make up 25% of all energy consumed by hotels and resorts, in addition to tax increases on retail sales and hotel facilities.

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