With positive news about the upcoming Egyptian elections, great feedback from travelers taking advantage of excellent pricing—including a little help from Facebook and Twitter—and a growing awareness among travelers it’s a safe destination, Egypt is bouncing back from its lethargic bookings.
“Our statistics are coming back,” says Mohamed Hegazy, tourism attache for USA & Latin America. “We received about 151,000 North American tourists from January 2011 to September 2011,” adding that those numbers were about 46 percent lower than the same time in the previous year, but still strong considering the situation.
Those numbers, Hegazy says, “…are projecting that the awareness of the U.S. traveler has not been affected by all of the media coverage of one part of downtown Cairo, they’re aware that the rest of downtown Cairo, Cairo itself and the rest of Egypt is also okay, too, so don’t be hesitant.”
Pamela Lassers, director of media relations for Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.com) couldn’t agree more, mainly because the company’s fourth quarter numbers for Egypt were bouncing back remarkably well. “Interest in travel to Egypt rebounded in the fourth quarter with clients who had postponed trips earlier in the year, rebooking for travel October through December 2011. We have nine different departures in October and demand for travel in December has been so strong that we just added a second departure of Egypt Unveiled for Dec. 1,” she says, adding that their Egypt bookings were already up to within 60 percent of last year’s.
At the same time, Lassers adds, “Forward bookings for 2012 doubled over the past two weeks, spurred by attractive incentives and interest in the restoration of the Avenue of the Sphinxes in Luxor, one of the most important religious paths in the world. Lined with hundreds of newly uncovered and restored stone guardians, this 1.5-mile path links the Temple of Luxor with the Temple of Karnak. Restoration is scheduled to be completed by the end of this month.”
Probably the biggest surprise and certainly a very positive one for future bookings, family travel, too, has rebounded with A&K adding two more family travel programs for 2012. “We have just added two additional departures of Pyramids, Mummies & Temples, our Egypt family holiday for 2012 that includes a 3-night Nile River cruise. The new departure dates are April 2 and June 25,” Lassers explains. “Families that traveled with us in the summer of 2011 shared their experiences on Facebook and Twitter, reassuring prospective travelers and inspiring them to book. Parents see the trip as a history lesson for their children.”
Lassers includs an example of the kinds of things the company’s clients are sharing with friends and family on Facebook. Ann Hillhouse of Birmingham, AL, wrote, “We decided this was actually the best time to go; so interesting and so much less crowded. We were welcomed like celebrities everywhere we went. This was the best trip we have ever had!” And, says Lassers, that’s the kind of thing (Facebook and Twitter) that helped drive more family travelers.
The Pyramids, Mummies & Temples program includes visits to Egypt’s famous temples, fortresses and ruins. They’ll see Tutankhamun’s mummy in his tomb, don galabeyyas (traditional robes) at a costume party aboard the luxurious Sun Boat IV and tackle a challenging family scavenger hunt through a bustling, colorful bazaar. They’ll also see a pyramid inside and out, and ride a donkey along the Nile. The 9-day tour runs from $2,335 (June 25-July 3, 2012) or $2,665 (April 2-10, 2012).
“Egypt is a family destination and also a honeymoon destination,” Hegazy says, “where everyone can find anything that satisfies them—every member of the family in terms of cultural tourism, in terms of adventure tourism, in terms of the beach, even.” He adds, “They can adjust their itinerary when they’re in Egypt starting in Cairo, cruising from Luxor to Aswan and enjoy the luxurious resorts in Sharm el Sheik.” Hegazy also adds that all international flights are all flying normal schedules again and even the charter air programs are back on line.
Even the river cruise companies suffering through several months of painfully low load factors aren’t giving up on the destination and they’re optimistic about the future. “I’m under no illusions about Egypt, it’s coming, it’s coming, but it’s very slow. We’re getting bookings, but it’s nowhere near the level we had before the Arab Spring,” says Patrick Clark, director of operations for Avalon Cruises (avalonwaterways.com). “We’ve got a lot of new things in Egypt—we’ve got a new ship on the Nile, we’ve introduced Lake Nasser, we’ve added different itineraries, we’ve provided the opportunity to do pre or post in Jordan and there’s an Israel combination. There’s lots of things we’ve tied to Egypt. But we’re in it for the long haul, it’s going to be slow and we understand that. But it will be back.”