CAIRO: Visa International, under the auspices of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, kicked off its inaugural Tourism Forum on Sunday. The event highlighted the influence of electronic payments to the tourism industry and discussed ways in which Egypt can leverage the opportunities for even greater success in the sector.
Zoheir Garranah, minister of tourism served as the keynote speaker at the event and was a member of the distinguished panel that included Tarek Elhousseiny, Visa s vice president and general manager for Egypt and Libya; Mohamed El Dib, chairman of national Société Générale; Hassan Abdalla, vice chairman and managing director of Arab African International Bank; and Carlos Romero, executive director of Affiliate Members for the United Nations World Tourism Organization. The diverse panel was assembled to examine the influence of electronic payments on the tourism industry.
Minister Garranah began the event by noting that perceptions about Egypt are changing. With a thriving tourism infrastructure, state-of-the art airports, and increasingly diverse tourism offerings and destinations, the Minister explained that a stronger tourism industry benefits everyone. He noted that public-private partnerships are playing a key role in continuing development of the sector, and called for new and innovative ways of cooperation.
“Visa has a long-standing relationship with the global travel and tourism industry. Establishments equipped with payment card acceptance and the related infrastructure fuel tourism spending; and the more tourists we attract, the higher the revenues for both our industries, said Zoheir Garranah. “We would like to see deeper partnership with the banking and financial industry: to increase the number of establishments that accept electronic payments, to activate electronic online transactions, and to seek novel ways of collaboration directed into travel and tourism.
As host of the Visa Tourism Forum, Tarek Elhousseiny gave an insightful presentation on the close relationship between tourism, e-payments and economic growth.
“Electronic payments are a driver of economic development and enabler of tourism growth, said Elhousseiny. “From 2004-6, total tourism spending in Egypt using Visa cards increased by 56 percent from $564 million to $880 million, while expenditure using Visa cards has increased from 9 percent of total tourism revenues to 12 percent. We have only begun to see the economic opportunities that electronic payments can bring. Expanding the electronic payment acceptance network in Egypt will greatly help leverage growth in tourism and, in turn, the Egyptian economy.
Elhousseiny explained that expanding the e-payment acceptance network to fuel growth in tourism revenues is a shared responsibility that requires commitment and solid partnerships between all stakeholders. Outlining a number of recommendations for increasing payment card acceptance, he noted that the government, member banks, merchants, media and Visa all play a crucial role in leveraging e-payment opportunities and encouraging tourism spending.
Shifting focus to the restructuring of the Egyptian banking sector, El Dib pointed out the ways in which this streamlining will benefit both e-payments and tourism. He explored the emergence of the retail banking industry and ways in which banks can facilitate electronic payments. He noted that as tourists come to depend more on payment card networks instead of cash, banks will play a leading role in driving payment card acceptance and further development of related infrastructure.
“With our partner Visa International, we are confident to move forward with the electronic payment infrastructure, which will no doubt, have a positive influence on the tourism sector and the Egyptian economy as a whole, said El Dib.
With the advent of electronic payments and innovative payment technology, new systems that promote acceptance have made transactions more secure, efficient and convenient than ever before. Abdalla discussed the role that Visa issuing and acquiring banks are playing in bringing these technological advances to Egypt.
AAIB has an unwavering commitment to innovation in payment cards; from introducing credit cards to the Egyptian market during the early 1980s, to empowering a payment network in our capacity as issuers and acquirers. Moreover, AAIB has led the way in introducing smart technology to the market, said Abdalla. In the meantime, as AAIB always believes in the power of innovative design, the bank issued the first transparent and mini cards in Egypt. Through our successful and continuous partnership with Visa, we re in the process of studying the introduction of new GPRS technology to support greater payment card acceptance within the tourism industry and the economy as a whole.
In closing, Romero offered his views from an international perspective. He discussed the topic of international tourism and recent consumer trends. He explained that because tourism is a consumer driven industry, it is important for countries to provide robust, secure financing systems to encourage electronic payments for tourism related products and services.
“Electronic payments promote travel and tourism by providing travelers with a form of exchange that is secure, reliable and easy to use, said Romero. “There is a mutual benefit and a strong link between the growth of tourism and the access to payment cards and other electronic payments systems. Tourism offers enormous potential for economic growth and local development and having access to electronic payments are among the critical factors to consider.
The Visa Tourism Forum gathered guests from the government, finance and tourism sectors as well as the media. Speeches were followed by an insightful question and answer session. Following the Q&A, guests enjoyed dinner and live entertainment.