According to Egypt’s Minister of Tourism, H.E. Hisham Zaazou, 2015 is the year U.S. travelers are going to say yes to Egypt. “2015 will witness a start, not a full turnaround, but a start,” says Zaazou. “The situation in Egypt is favorable.”
The enthusiastic Minister of Tourism, who last year did not attend USTOA, because, he said, he wasn’t 100 percent confident that Egypt was stable enough, is pushing hard to bring U.S. tourists back to Egypt as soon as possible. During a roundtable discussion at last week’s USTOA 2014 conference, which was held at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in South Florida, he told tour operators, including Abercrombie & Kent, Homeric Tours and Isramworld, that the government of Egypt is serious about tourism. “We mean business. We want to have a call for action now, and long-haul markets, such as the U.S., are very important for us.”
He pointed out that it should planned out in two parts: short- and long-term. “Let’s heat up the business. I want to give specials as fast as we can—make [tourists] go to Egypt now! The market responds to good deals. I don’t need mass numbers now, but when people come it creates a snowball effect.” In terms of the long-term plans he discussed with tour operators, he mentioned bringing celebrities to the country; offering FAMs, etc.
Rami Girgis, A&K’s product manager, Asia, Middle East & Nat Geo, added that it’s important to bring qualified agents to the destination. He mentioned creating targeted FAMs that should be done in partnership with specific tour operators who target specific travel agents who actually produce.
During the roundtable discussion, the tour operators also pointed out that they would like more engagement from the ministry, to which Zaazou remarked that the reason he came to USTOA this year is because he wants to renew partnerships as soon as possible, and he emphasized as soon as the new year. And when one of the tour operators pointed out that one of the components they are worried about is a hike in hotel pricing, for example, to make up for the loss of tourism in the last few years, the Egypt delegation jumped in immediately, and said it would not go up drastically because the top hotel chains need the bookings first and foremost. In fact, they all agreed that travel to Egypt in 2015 would be less expensive than in 2010, with Zaazou adding that “the pyramids are not congested, and you’ll get good value for money” if you go to Egypt now.
Zaazou stressed that, “It is safe to go. The tourist is extremely welcome.” In fact, he noted again and again, that the slump in tourism affects the little guys the most—it’s the guy selling the postcards that’s not making enough money to feed his family, he pointed out. But, he said, the trend if definitely moving upward.
Zaazou’s final point hit the mark—“There’s a saying among Egyptians, that goes, ‘Egypt tourism can get sick, but it does not die.’” According to Zaazou, “today the vision is crystal-clear. I am confident in Egypt. Egypt will be better in the coming period.”
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