Workers in the tourism sector expect an increase in tourist investments, especially in the Gulf of Aqaba across several touristic towns and cities such as Sharm El-Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba, and Taba thanks to the new agreement to build a bridge that links Egypt to Saudi Arabia over the Red Sea.
The bridge will increase tourist flow between Arab countries as well as increasing hotel occupancies in the area which already has giant touristic resources, according to head of the Taba-Nuweiba Investors Association Samy Soliman.
The tourism sector is currently required to hold special studies and marketing research for the post-bridge construction period, Soliman said. The areas of Nuweiba and Taba alone are able to attract investments worth more than EGP 30bn after the construction of the bridge is completed.
“All studies concerned with the Riviera Taba-Nuweiba area are already with the Tourism Development Authority (TDA). There are investments right now. Some are open and working and others are either closed or under construction,” Soliman added.
The estimated cost of the construction of the King Salman Bridge is $4bn, and its construction is expected to take about seven years.
Current investments in the area of Taba-Nuweiba are worth more than EGP 10bn, according to Soliman. He added that the area is different from other touristic areas in South Sinai because it still lacks sufficient investments compared to Sharm El-Sheikh.
The hotel capacity in Taba-Nuweiba is about 15,000 under-construction hotel rooms, out of a total of 60,000 hotel rooms in South Sinai.
Soliman believes that the area is promising as it overlooks several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, which makes it similar in its touristic nature to certain areas of Europe.
King Salman Bridge will play a major role in increasing the influx of Arab tourists, especially from the Gulf, to resorts in Sharm El-Sheikh, according to chairperson of the Tourism Committee in the Egyptian Businessmen’s Association Ahmed Balbaa.
Arab tourism has drastically changed during the past period, as a large percentage of Gulf tourists are headed to other destinations that compete with Egypt in the region. However, the bridge will reduce travel times and facilitate the flow of families into the resorts of South Sinai, Balbaa said.
Soliman said that Taba-Nuweiba alone is able to attract more than four million Arab tourists annually, compared to 1.7 million tourists in 2015.
In 2015, the flow of Arab inbound tourism in Egypt achieved a 7% growth, compared to 2014.
The number of tourists visiting Egypt in 2015 has declined to 9.3m tourists, compared to 9.9m in 2014, according to Soliman.
He added that investments will not be limited solely to hotel and resorts establishments, as the area of Taba-Nuweiba will be announced a free-trade zone and the two cities will be combined together as one city.
“We have requested that the Red Sea Ports Authority (RSPA) allocate a port for yacht tourism in the area in order to attract high-spending tourists,” he said.
However, MP Amr Sedqy said that Egypt’s share of Arab tourism is still less than ideal. “If we had paid more attention to it, we would have achieved larger growth rates than the current ones,” he added.
Sedqy believes that marketing for tourist resorts in Arab countries must be carried out according to new, modern techniques, especially considering the current conditions globally. Arab investments will be safer in Egypt than in any other western country so special attention must be paid to this, the MP said.
Holding promotions to attract new investments in the tourism sector requires ease of access to the procedures by which approvals to set up investment projects are obtained, according to Sedqy. “The Tourism Ministry needs to initiate dialogues with Arab investors,” he added.
Total investments in Egypt are worth EGP 68bn, however, Arab investments represent only 3% of these investments, according to data from the TDA.
Sedqy believes that this percentage is quite small especially considering the giant capital that comes from Gulf countries to Europe. He believes that Egypt is more worthy of these investments.
The MP called upon the TDA, which is the investment arm of the Tourism Ministry, to promote investment opportunities to businessmen without further delay. “The TDA must be present in all tourism fields in the world and must market its country,” he added.
Sedqy explained that there are specific projects that must be available in towns and cities on the Red Sea coast, whether in South Sinai or Hurghada or any other touristic town. These include entertainment projects as well as infrastructure projects that serve resorts.
Investing in these projects will increase tourists’ spending in Egypt, which could exceed $130bn, compared to current spending worth $70bn.