A new, safe Egypt woos Indian travellers

Want to visit the “new” Egypt? Five months after the uprising in the North African country, its battered tourism sector is looking at Asia, especially India, as its market of the future.

“India and Asia, especially South Asia, is our future because the Indian economy is booming. Even Egyptian people are now discovering India and Asia instead of always going to the usual places like Paris and Britain,” Adel El Masry, Egyptian tourism office director, said.

Famous for its pyramids, Egypt attracts a large number of tourists from across the world. Tourism is one of its prime industries, with 17 smaller industries dependent on it and employing more than seven million people.

But the Jan 25 uprising at Cairo’s Tahrir Square changed things. While the 18-day stir against Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade-long rule was sweet victory for its people, it battered the tourism industry.

The result was a decline of 40 percent in tourist arrivals.

“We lost $200 million from January to July this year in the tourism industry alone. The sector’s contribution to the GDP declined to 11.2 percent this year, from 11.5 percent ($12.5 billion in 2010) last year,” said Masry.

More than 45 hotels, which were under various stages of construction, were also stopped.

But now the country is attempting to re-attract tourists with new offers, alliances with airlines and a new tagline, “Let’s visit Egypt – Egypt is safe”.

“In 2010, we had 14.7 million tourists with 114,000 from India. While our traditional markets are France, Britain and Italy, Asian countries are our focus now, especially India,” Masry said.

According to him, there was a rise of 36 percent in Indian tourist arrivals in the country in 2010 over the previous year.

“We are now trying to promote a positive image of the country, that it’s safe. We are organising media trips to the country to give the people an idea through them that things have normalised,” he said.

“Additionally we are doing a road show in four cities in India this November-Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. I also want to go to Kolkata and Jaipur. In March next year, we will do another international road show, of which India will also be a part,” Masry added.

Attractive holiday packages and tie-ups with airlines besides their country’s carrier EgyptAir, like Qatar Airways, Emirates and Gulf Air and those with tour operators are a part of the strategy.

“We are also trying to re-package the kind of tourism we offer. We are now promoting Egypt as a honeymoon destination, a place of romance, to woo younger travellers. That it is a cultural destination is already well known,” Masry said.
It is also promoting itself as a destination for wellness, religious, cruise travel and MICE (meeting, incentives, conferencing, and exhibitions), he added.

“Things are normalising and in the last two months tourists have started coming back to Egypt. There used to be five flights from Mumbai to Cairo every week, which came down to three since January. Now from October, it is expected to go back to five,” Masry said.

He, however, added it will still take some time for things to completely normalise in Cairo where the uprising had begun. “Moreover as long as peace does not prevail in our region, among our neighbours, we will continue to suffer,” he said. By Azera Rahman