Egypt a new look

Features, Hospitality Trends

Egypt has more than the pyramids and a cruise on the Nile, says the NTB and DMCs on the sidelines of a tri-country roadshow

Egypt is expecting to host more than one lakh Indian tourists this year. The first move in this strategy was the road show organised in Mumbai with 200 agents participating in it. “I am happy to share that we have already hosted 77,610 Indian tourists until September 2010,” says Adel El Masry, director, Egyptian Tourism Office, India. By December this year it is likely to be around 1.10 to 1.20lakh.

“With this road show we hope to explore new business opportunities with national and international tour operators,” he says. The roadshow comes together with Egyptian festivals which showcase culture weeks, art exhibitions, movie festivals so that people can experience more. Hindi movie personality Celina Jaitley has been appointed the brand ambassador for the NTB. The roadshow brought 10 tour operators from Egypt, including the one which handled the highest number of Indians last year, Mohamed F Sabry from Oscar Tours based in Cairo.

Egypt Tourism Authority’s head of the international tourism sector, Samy Mahmood says, “In 2009, we had 12.5million tourists. Out of these 64% were from Europe – United Kingdom and Germany etc. About 18% came from the Gulf area. South East Asia sends out about 10%. From the region, Japan is at number one with 120,000 tourists, India is number two, and China is at number three, with almost 85,000 tourists. India may be among the top 15 to 16 markets for us in the next five-years.”

Mahmood is very ambitious about ETA’s India plans. “I think 100,000 is not a fair number. We are still looking for more and more tourists from India. India is a huge market. I think the next five years we are looking for more than 700,000 or one million. We have a very clear strategy for achieving that number. We launched a very big advertisement campaign. We have covered more than 26 countries in Europe and Asia and North America. By the end of 2010 we are looking for more than 14 million tourists to Egypt. By end of 2014 we should have 16 million, by 2020 we should have 25millon tourists,” he says.
Strategy

Ask him whether he is being too ambitious and Mahmood responds with an example. “When we started in the Russian market about 10 or 15 years ago we only had 15,000 tourists. Right now we have two million from the Russian market. If we work in the same way here in the Indian market we will reach this number in five years. We have a strategy in place.”
A part of the strategy is to support travel agencies in advertising campaigns. “We’ve been doing this for the past three years. We support Indian travel agents on all advertising campaigns on a 50-50 ratio. They have to initiate it. And there have been good results since we have seen a 21% increase from India,” he says.

Tourists are very important for Egypt. Tourism makes up for 11% of the country’s GDP. A part of the strategy is to make the country more hospitable. “Right now we have 200,000 rooms under construction. After two or three years we’ll have more than 400,000 rooms,” says Mahmood.

This new-found focus on South East Asia is a direct impact of recession, which hit Egypt’s tourism sector. Close on the heels of the economic slowdown, the Cairo-based investment bank, EFG-Hermes warned that occupancy rate across Egypt would drop sharply to 58%, down from 77%. Ironically, it was the strength of the Egyptian pound, which had been gaining against the rouble, sterling and the euro, which caused a decline in numbers. To add to its woes, Turkey, a strong regional competitor, has become more attractive after its currency was devalued by about a third.

ETA is also planning to revamp its website. “Now we will have the website in 13 languages. We are working very hard to launch the new website which will allow us to present a customised experience to each country,” said Ayten Fouad, ETA marketing consultant and international campaigns director.

Diversify

While getting Indians to go to Egypt is not that much of a challenge, convincing them that Egypt is more than the Sphinx is a bit of a tough job. “We are not just about culture tourism. We have many other products in Egypt. I know all most Indians are interested in culture tourism. But we also have incentive tourism, safaris, nature tourism, wellness and spa tourism. We have very nice golf courses around Egypt. We have everything for India, including beaches at the Red Sea coast. I would like our partners not to talk to Indians only about the pyramids or sphinx. We have many offerings at Cairo, Sharm-al-Sheikh and Alexandria that Indians may like,” says Mahmood.

Sabry has a similar experience. “Actually, we need to introduce variety. About 80% of all tourists coming from India have one single package, the Nile Cruise and Cairo, which is a very fantastic trip but we have many other varieties. Our aim is to join hands with Indian travel agents and showcase more and more varieties than we have already,” he says.

At hotels in Red Sea resort cities Hurghada and Sharm-El-Sheikh occupancy rates were down by up to 40% during recession. And these are now focus cities for promotions where Indians can benefit from great packages.

Film production

“We are talking to our brand ambassador for partnerships because Egypt is very good for shooting Indian movies. We are looking to Indian production companies to come to Egypt. We will give them all facilities,” says Mahmood.

“We also have a cinema production company which handled Singh Is Kinng for Akshay Kumar, and another movie from Hyderabad two months ago. We can offer these facilities for Indian production companies. We are going to work with producers and invite them to Egypt,” says Sabry. One of the plans to increase shooting opportunities in Egypt is to work on a joint venture between Indian and Egyptian film companies.

Roadshow

Egypt Tourism Authorities have for the first time organised a road show in India at cities including Delhi and Mumbai to promote tourism. The authorities may look at making the roadshow a yearly or biannual affair as a part of its strategy to woo more tourists from India.

Source region in India

Mahmood says that Mumbai, perhaps due to its connectivity sends out more than 40% of visitors to Egypt. Delhi has a market share of about 20% to 25%. The rest of Indian tourists are from Bengaluru and Hyderabad and Chennai.
“Chennai has started working well now. We need to target other cities as well, such as Ahmedabad, Pune and Kolkata. We need our ministry to pave the way for us,” Sabry says.

Food and spend

Most Indian tourists go to Egypt on full board basis with Indian vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals all the time. “We try to give one other meal during this week but it is very hard to convince them. We have many vegetarian options and once they do try them, they like them. Most Asian travellers don’t try other cuisine. For instance, the Japanese also want Japanese food, though they are okay with seafood and the Chinese want only Chinese for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” says Sabry. Amongst Asians, Japanese tourists spend the most, followed by the South Koreans and Indians. “The average spend is high because they like to buy souvenirs, they like going to bazaars,” he says.

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