While violence escalates on Egypt’s streets, many tourism experts doubt the return of tourism to its normal level, despite the Sharm El-Sheikh Economic Summit.
Although the government is taking action to lure foreign investments and tourism, Egypt’s most important sources of foreign currency, the security situation remains a challenge with the number of bombs in Cairo’s streets rising.
Tourism expert Mohamed Khadem said tourism rates will continue to drop as long as the security situation is not as stable as before, describing it as “unprecedentedly violent”.
Before the 30 June 2013 protests leading to the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, tourist arrival numbers were up 16.4% year-on-year in June, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). It reported that the total number of tourists visiting Egypt in June reached 988,573, up from around 850,000 in the corresponding month in 2012.
After that time, Egypt’s security situation weakened, leading many international travel firms to halt selling holiday packages to the country. Several European governments, including Germany, Russia, France, Spain, Sweden and Italy, imposed travel alerts for Egypt, fearing the violence after the dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Squares in August of the same year.
To restore tourism, the interim government at the time increased its focus on promoting the country, and succeeded in convincing several countries to remove their travel bans. Most of the efforts were concentrated on Europe and the Middle East, as, according to former tourism minister Hisham Zaazou, they collectively comprise approximately 90% of tourist arrivals.
The government plans to increase tourism sector investments in 2015 by offering land parcels through the General Authority for Tourism Development (GATD). Tourism investment over the past four years fell by 75%, compared to the period before 25 January 2011. The authority plans to raise five projects for integrated development during the Economic Summit, with investments worth EGP 5.2bn, according to a GATD official.
The projects are considered an exploration process of the real estate investment market, the official said, adding that large areas were offered by the authority over the past four years. The land area exceeds 18m sqm, although no one has applied yet, but when lands were offered in Ain Sokhna, the demand was great.
According to Zaazou, Egypt is targeting 20% growth in tourist numbers this year, rather than 10 million tourists. The sector’s income was $7.5bn in 2014, with a growth of $1.6bn compared to 2013.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, hotel capacity in Egypt is 225,000 rooms, 65% of which are in the Red Sea and South Sinai. The rest are distributed between Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, and Aswan. Further, tourist expenditure per night during last year increased from $74.3 at the beginning of 2014 to $81.3 at its end, according to Zaazou.