At the beginning of the next year, Safir Hotels Group plans to expand by acquiring three hotels following their development in Dahab and Hurghada, in addition to another one under construction in Montazah.
According to the general manager of the Safir Hotel in Cairo, Hussein Shoukry, the group has been contracted by Safir Dahab hotel for a period of 10 years at a cost of EGP 55m, as well as a hotel in Hurghada for EGP 110m. The company is also in the final stage of negotiations to acquire the Port Said Sonesta Hotel.
Daily News Egypt spoke with Sanafir’s Cairo Manager Hussein Shokry to discuss the state of Egyptian tourism and the company’s forthcoming plans.
When will these new hotels officially be brought under the group’s control?
The hotels will be developed and brought under the group’s management in early 2017. Safir Dahab hotel will have 150 rooms, while the hotel in Hurghada will have 180 rooms. Construction of the hotel in Montazah will be completed early next year, as well.
Arab tourism accounts for a large share of your hotels’ occupancy. What are your expectations for the future?
Arab inbound tourism to Egypt achieved revenues of $33m in the first quarter of this year alone. Occupancy rates have increased recently thanks to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s visit to Egypt this month.
Occupancy in Greater Cairo hotels rose to 83% in the first quarter of this year owing to the large demand of Arab businesspeople. Rates were predicted to increase at the end of April with the influx of Arab students to Cairo for their final exams
Emirati tourism also increased during the first quarter of 2016. It is expected that more Kuwaitis will visit in the second quarter of the year, which is when the number of flights increases.
Egypt could attract a large number of Arab tourists during the coming period, but that will rely on new ways of marketing. About 60% of the Saudi market use the internet to book their trips.
Some 1.7 million Arab tourists visited Egypt in 2015. Do you think the number Arab tourists visiting Egypt will be higher by the end of this year?
Yes. The Arab influx will increase, especially since the first quarter’s indicators are good. However, I cannot predict a growth ratio.
These figures are very weak for tourism potential. Egypt should be able to attract much more than that. The state is on its way toward political stability, especially as the parliament is now elected.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are important markets for Egyptian tourism. Saudi Arabians topped Arab arrivals to Egypt over the past year.
About 433,000 Saudi tourists visited Egypt last year, a 23.7% increase from 2014.
Kuwait comes second with 140,000 tourists visiting Egypt, an increase of 15.5% .
Emirates follow in third place with 46,000 tourists visiting Egypt last year, an increase of 26.4% from 2014.
What is your opinion of how Egyptian hotels and resorts are being marketed in the Arab market?
Arab tourism has evolved a great deal in the past period. A large segment of this demographic now books trips via the internet. Many young people are now choosing to take beach holidays.
Tourism in no longer limited to Cairo and Alexandria, as it was in the past two decades.
Therefore, it is our duty to launch marketing campaigns that take technology into account, according to different age demographics of Gulf tourists.
The Arab market requires special offers according to age and the preferences of each demographic. Young peopleprefer beach holidays and cultural tourism . However, many Arabs still prefer to stay in Cairo hotels.
A decent number of Arabs choose to stay in rented units for the privacy they provide. Sometimes, they own these units. Hence, Arabs visit Egypt the most frequently. They also have the highest expenses at about $140 per night.
There is always disparity in the average occupancy of hotels across Cairo. What is your evaluation of this?
According to the figures, the average occupancy in the Fifth Settlement, during the first quarter, reached 80%. The number drops to 75% in downtown and 70% in Heliopolis. Therefore, the disparity is not that great.
Hotels near the airport in east Cairo are the busiest.
What is your opinion of the prices and rates Arabs have been recently charged ?
Prices have increased in Cairo for two reasons. First, there is the growth in occupancy. Second, the dollar price against the pound has changed significantly.
These two factors have made the majority of Cairo hotels raise their rates by at least EGP 100 per room.
This is still not a large increase, despite the increased spending on production inputs, such as food and wages.