The Ministry of Tourism is aiming to raise the incoming tourist traffic from the Gulf states to the cities of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada through the end of August, hoping to raise traffic by 20%.
According to a Ministry of Tourism official, direct flights between Riyadh, Jeddah and Kuwait to the two cities are meant to increase visitors from the Gulf. He added that these direct flights were introduced last June, but that subsidies were stopped on those flights through Ramadan given the lack of demand from Arabs to travel to Egypt during the month of fasting, instead of flights being stopped altogether. The flights will resume Wednesday, with subsidies in place.
The Ministry of Tourism plans to increase flights between Sharm El-Sheikh and Jeddah from three to five flights weekly, in order to increase traffic to tourist resort areas in Egypt.
“Stimulus programmes for flights coming in from the Arab Gulf countries shows some thinking outside of the box,” according to Adela Ragab, an economic adviser for the Minister of Tourism and a professor of economics at the University of Cairo. He added that the programme will be evaluated at the end of August to look into the possibility of continuing it until the end of September.
Ragab believes that the goal is not to support air traffic between Egypt and Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, but that it is “to raise average occupancy in hotels during the summer months”.
Arab tourists account for about 20% of total inbound tourists to Egypt annually, according to the Sub-Accounts Unit of the Ministry of Tourism.
The launch of more flights between Arab countries to coastal Egyptian towns on the Red Sea and South Sinai shows a pattern of change and growth in Arab tourism, given the younger age groups of tourists coming from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
“For a Saudi, taking a weekend trip in his own country will cost up to $500… Why wouldn’t we offer him a trip to a coastal city in Egypt instead, which would only take an hour by plane and cost almost the same amount?” says Ragab.
She stated that the Gulf tourists often take trips to Malaysia, Turkey and coastal countries, and that “we are working to push them to visit Egyptian coastal cities”.
Incoming tourism in Egypt fell during the first half of this year, capping at 4.5 million tourists, representing a 25% decrease compared to the same period last year, according to Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou.
Zaazou has stated before that his ministry is working to attract 9.5 million tourists by the end of this year.
Subsidies from the Ministry of Aviation for one seat on a plane range between $150 and $250, depending on the distance from Egypt.
The Ministry of Tourism also plans to launch flight routes between the Indian capital of New Delhi and Cairo by the beginning of October, at three flights a week, according to Ragab.
She emphasised the need to work with tour operators, companies, and Indian media in order to encourage tourism from India to Egypt.
She also reflected that cooperation with airlines aims to promote cultural tourism in Luxor and Aswan, which will hopefully see more arrivals in the coming winter season.