Ministry suggests alternative energy sources to combat crisis as hotels fear heavy losses due to blackouts
The electricity crisis set to hit Egypt this summer has been described by those working within Egypt’s tourism sector as a “death blow”, considering the already fragile state of the country’s tourism industry. The use of alternative forms of energy, they said, would make the crisis worse, forcing facilities to resort to using costly fuel generators. However alternative “Green” energy sources are also costly and require a long period of time to activate.
Nashwa Talat, advisor to the Minister of Tourism, and director of the Green Tourist Unit, said that the Ministry would propose a comprehensive programme to support the use of green energy in hotels to help them combat the electricity crisis set to strike Egypt this coming summer.
The cost of implementing the programme, she said, would differ depending on the hotel and its energy consumption rates, in addition to its rate of conversion, with some hotels starting to use LED smart bulbs to reduce electricity usage.
She added that there were many different smart energy products available, such as lighting and air conditioning systems that turn on and off instantly as a person enters and leaves a room. She went on to say that the Ministry sought to provide funding incentives to hotels and tourist towns looking to convert their facilities to alternative energy. The Ministry would negotiate, she said, with banks, financial institutions and the Egyptian Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs to acquire soft payment loans for such hotels.
Talat stated that the Ministry would work on behalf of hotels, particularly smaller ones, seeking to acquire loans to convert to green energy by negotiating with banks and financial institutions to lower their interest rates. The Ministry had also succeeded, she said, in acquiring for a number of hotels a series of solar water heaters sold at a 25% discount.
Ashraf Ibrahim, President of the Tourist Department at the Egyptian National Competitiveness Council, described the country’s tourism sector as highly volatile and easily affected by the different crises that may affect the country, such as lapses in security and fuel and electricity shortages.
Foreign travel agencies, Ibrahim said, would not encourage their customers to travel to a country that suffered from a shortage of basic amenities. He went on to say that repeated cuts in electricity would damage hotel facilities, forcing them to resort to costly fuel generators.
In this scenario, he said, hotels would be forced to bear the burden of increased prices. They would be unable to pass them on to consumers, considering that many holiday packages are sold as fixed price agreements under contracts with foreign travel agencies. Ibrahim added that large, high-rise facilities in particular would be affected by cutbacks in the flow of electricity, because of the energy draining need to pump water up all the rooms.
He went on to say that the short-term solution for energy cutbacks would be to rely on fuel generators, rather than any kind of alternative energy, despite the environmental benefits.
Hatem Munir, Secretary for the Red Sea Hotel Facilities Chamber, said that hotels could expect to suffer from anywhere between EGP 100,000 to EGP 1m in losses as a result of fluctuations in the flow of electricity. Shortages in the Red Sea province alone could potentially affect all 258 hotels in the region.
Egypt’s Minister of Energy and Electricity announced that Egypt’s market was currently suffering a shortage of 3,900,000 megawatts of electricity. Munir further said that last week hotels in Hurghada suffered a two-hour blackout due to problems with hotel fuel generators and a shortage of the necessary fuel to operate them.