By Yasmin Sameh
In an effort to support Egypt’s suffering tourism industry, Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou said Saturday plans to offer incentives for European tourism companies and airlines to lift travel warnings for Sinai and Sharm El-Sheikh.
During a meeting at the International Tourism Bourse in Berlin, Zaazou said he would coordinate with the Minister of Civil Aviation to decrease flight costs, and further efforts to remove the exit fees obligatory to tourists, according to a statement from Ministry of Tourism spokeswoman Rasha El-Azazzi.
Zaazou will also kick off web and television advertisements to rejuvenate tourism by inviting famous figures to Egypt with the help of travel agencies in Germany, Russia, Belgium, and France.
The ministry is also planning to work with EgyptAir to improve charter flights.
At the conference, Zaazou met with representatives from a number of tour companies and airlines, including Air Berlin, Air Cairo, and Air Germania, in hopes of reaching an agreement to lift tour warnings and to encourage visitors to fly to Egypt. Fourteen European countries have officially advised their citizens to put plans of visiting Egypt on hold until the country’s security situation improves.
Zaazou also appealed to the German foreign minister to lift a travel warning directing citizens to refrain from visiting beach resorts in Sinai, including Sharm El Sheikh. Following the bombing of a tourist bus in the Egyptian resort of Taba that left four dead, tour operators chartered flights to evacuate more than 200 tourists. Other Egyptian destinations are still open to the German public.
El-Azazzi said the companies that participated in the meetings welcomed Zaazou’s efforts. “They are just as negatively affected [by the travel warnings] as we are because they have investments in Egypt,” she said.
Company representatives agreed with Zaazou that the Egyptian tourism ministry and private tourism organisations should work together to spread positive propaganda for travelling to Egypt, El-Azazzi said. Egypt stands out from neighbouring countries because of its weather, which “promises sunshine all year round”, and its rich cultural history, which is not as heavily present in other destinations in the area.
As a step toward lifting the travel warning, the representatives agreed to approach the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs to request a delegation be sent to Sharm El-Sheikh to evaluate the safety and security of the area, the statement said.
During the meeting, Michael Frenzel, who heads the board of directors for Germany’s TUI, a tour company, said he supports Egyptian tourism. TUI Germany plans to open four new hotels in Soma Bay, Marsa Alam, Sahl Hashish, and the North Coast (Almaza), he said.
Frenzel, who also leads the World Travel & Tourism Council, asked that the city of Hurghada be prepared to host the organisation’s regional summit at the end of this year or in January of 2015.