Egypt has a very good opportunity to bounce back as a leading tourist destination following the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said on Tuesday.
In remarks to Daily News Egypt, Pololikashvili added, “Egypt is ready. It is absolutely prepared with all the precautionary measures and controls and I am sure that, step-by-step, tourism numbers will grow in this period.”
He added that it currently remains difficult to forecast when Egypt could return to pre-coronavirus tourism levels, as this would depend on a variety of inputs.
He stated that Europe is the main source of international arrivals and spenders, although travel from this region remains low due to precautionary measures in place due to the global pandemic.
“It will depend a lot on how fast Europe will open up, and how fast Europeans will start to travel,” Pololikashvili said. “It’s not only about policy and politics, it’s also about people as they are scared to travel, and we will have to convince them to do more. We have to make them feel safe travelling in a responsible way, and that it’s not dangerous.”
He explained that, despite the challenges, this period creates an opportunity for Egypt due to its excellent climate. This provides an excellent opportunity to attract tourists, as there are not so many places to visit at the moment.
“My recommendations for Egypt are that the country should continue on its current path, with the precautionary measures it has put in place,” Pololikashvili said. “I was really surprised in Hurghada, when I visited it, as from the beginning of our trip you have a quite high level of professionalism, including doctors who are controlling the tourist arrival systems.”
He also recommended that Egypt should continue to invest in its tourism sector, whilst continuing training and education programmes for employees. This will ensure Egypt remains prepared for the gradual international reopening of tourism and international travel.
“We have come to Egypt as we want to support and collaborate with other countries, and to help Egypt attract more and more varied international visitors,” Pololikashvili said. “I’m so glad to see that EgyptAir is expanding its numbers of flights to different regions, and I’m sure that this dynamic will continue and the numbers will be only positive.”
The UNWTO head’s remarks came on the sidelines of his visit to the Grand Egyptian Museum where he concluded his first official visit to Egypt, which began on Saturday upon an invitation from Egypt’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El-Anani.
The visit is Pololikashvili’s first outside Europe since the start of the coronavirus crisis, as well as his first since the resumption of travel in Spain, where the UNWTO is headquartered.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El-Anani thanked the UNWTO head for his visit. The minister also thanked Pololikashvili for making Egypt his first official destination outside Europe.
El-Anani said that the visit was fruitful, and saw the UNWTO Secretary General visit one of Egypt’s most popular Red Sea tourism hubs, Hurghada. Pololikashvili inspected and followed up on the implementation of precautionary measures and health and safety controls approved for hotels, airports, diving centres and other tourism activities. This came alongside a visit to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization project, located in Old Cairo, as well as the Giza Pyramids
Pololikashvili also met with the tourism investors, as well as the Egyptian Tourism Federation (ETF) President and tourism chamber heads. During the meeting, discussions were held on a number of issues that will contribute to pushing Egypt’s tourism forward and promoting the country’s tourism sector.
Meanwhile, El-Anani said that he felt the soon to be completed Grand Egyptian Museum, located in Giza, was the perfect conclusion to Pololikashvili’s visit to Egypt. El-Anani pointed out that the museum will be a surprise to the whole world, and is not just a cultural gem but also Egypt’s cultural gift to the world for the 21st Century.
For his part, Polokishiviliai said that the museum will help in encouraging the return of tourism to Egypt as a unique asset for the world. He also reaffirmed the UNWTO’s full readiness to support Egypt as it returns to the pre-coronavirus tourism rates.