Friday, January 16, 2015

News: Egyptian Tourism Minister Tells USTOA Egypt is Ready for Business

Hisham Zaazou, the minister of tourism of Egypt, attended the U.S. Tour Operators Association Annual Conference and Marketplace in Boca Raton, Fla., last weekend and met with tour operators and media, and was interviewed in an open forum before the general assembly of delegates to the convention.

He brought the message that travelers are coming back to Egypt, and the government wants to take action to try to boost the flow of tourism traffic and to help it gain momentum.

“We in the government feel that the coming weeks and months will be good for Egypt as a destination,” said Zaazou. “We are now moving out of the revolutionary period for Egypt and the period of up and down, zigzagging and moving one way or the other when it comes to business. We are much more stable. The figures of the last six months, in particular right after the new president took office, are proving to be successful. We have witnessed double digit growth this last six months. 

First quarter this fiscal year, July through September, we had 58 percent growth overall. Some of the markets reported triple-digit increases. All markets are improving, including the U.S. I’m speaking from a base that became very low because the interest in Egypt dropped. But I’m talking about trends, and the trend is positive.”

Zaazou acknowledged that there are still many obstacles to overcome to achieve growth and return to what were previously normal levels of tourism traffic. “We are trying to see all the hurdles we have to overcome,” he said, “and one part of it is political. I’m going to have a meeting with [U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry in Washington and I think I’ll speak to him about the travel advisories on Egypt.”

Zaazou said the travel advisory system is not causing a large problem, but it should be reviewed. “I need to ensure that they will consult with the host country before posting something that is not really reflecting the reality on the ground,” said Zaazou. “People get affected by that plus media. Media tends to be sensationalistic. Sensationalism takes over. The media gives the impression it’s not safe to visit the area when it’s totally the opposite. 

The travelers and the tourists are extremely welcomed by the Egyptians, particularly the American travelers. There was a period of time when people thought there was anti-American sentiments, and that’s not true at all. The average Egyptian, let alone the people in the travel industry, values this tourist coming to Egypt.”

Zaazou said he is working with the Egyptian national carrier to help ensure that there will be enough air lift available for tour operators to plan trips to Egypt. He also said that the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism is eager to work out cooperative marketing plans with tour operators.

“We need to start now immediately,” he said, “and even if we don’t get the numbers immediately, that is not important. What I am interested in is the stimulation of the markets and the retrieval of the lost appetite of the consumer. And when the trend is moving in a positive direction, then I know it’s a matter of time if we continue to do our work that it will get back to the levels of 2010 and before.”

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