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Egypt promotes yacht tourism after dip from COVID-pandemic

Egypt is promoting yacht tourism due to the economic returns it brings to the state, as the Delta variant picks up.
Yachts are moored at the marina in Egypt's Red Sea resort town of Hurghada on Aug. 24, 2018.

Egypt is developing ways to promote yacht tourism, hoping it brings large economic returns to the state. At a Cabinet meeting in Cairo on Aug. 5, the ministers of tourism and transport discussed ways to develop this type of tourism upon directives from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to formulate a strategic plan to maximize yacht tourism by the end of this month. Once the plan is fully devised, it will be presented to Sisi for approval.

During the meeting, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled Anany said Egypt has more than 2,400 kilometers of coastline and picturesque beaches and distinct tourist resorts located in close proximity to famous historical touristic cities. Egypt enjoys a temperate climate all year, so it allows this tourism throughout the year and disembarking foreign yachts during the winter period.

Anany said the economic importance of yacht tourism are revenues from transit and berthing fees, taxes, fuel and maintenance.

The move comes at a time when Egypt — like other countries throughout the world — has seen a sharp drop in tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, revenue from the tourism sector dropped 70%, with a total of 3.5 million visitors, compared with over 13 million in 2019.

Yet Cairo is hoping 2021 will see some significant recovery. With global vaccination efforts picking up and Russian flights once again returning to Red Sea resort airports after a six-year hiatus, Egypt is preparing for an influx of tourists

Time magazine in July named Cairo one of the "World’s Greatest Places" of 2021. It selected Cairo for its “new vantages on unique treasures” and its ability to revitalize the tourism industry through a number of exciting projects, such as the Grand Egyptian Museum, which will become the largest archaeological museum in the world showcasing more than 100,000 ancient artifacts. Other forthcoming projects include the Ahl Misr Walkway, which is a pedestrian-friendly outdoor space along the Nile Corniche, and the Cairo Eye, which is expected to become the largest observation wheel in Africa by 2022.

Amid COVID-19, Egypt has taken a number of procedures to ensure safety and efficiency to encourage tourism. The online electronic visa portal for tourists facilitates getting visas online. Other measures include a vaccination campaign that has successfully vaccinated all staff in key resorts and hotels in the Red Sea and South Sinai governorates.

The Egyptian government agreed in the Aug. 5 meeting to set strategic main axes, which include preparing a unified price policy to provide incentives and attractive discounts for ships and yachts; raising the efficiency of current tourist ports; establishing marinas for yachts in sites that enjoy tourist attractions; preparing a marketing plan for promotion and active participation in tourism conferences, forums and international exhibitions; and launching an electronic portal to facilitate procedures, the issuance of permits and unified bills for yacht tourism-related bodies.

On Aug. 14, Egypt inaugurated the first marine fuel station on the Mediterranean shore to serve boats and yachts passing through the Matrouh governorate as part of the state's efforts to revitalize this growing type of tourism globally.

Captain Yasser El Mosalamy, president of the American Maritime Academy, hails the state’s desire to promote yacht tourism, saying it will help provide many job opportunities, especially in the travel and service sectors, in addition to increasing the national income.

“Before the recent decision to promote yacht tourism, Egypt was focusing only on traditional tourism by attracting foreigners to visit its tourist sites and do diving activities, for example. But yacht tourism is totally different. It means that we will attract international tourism, which the state will depend on in increasing the national income,” Mosalamy told Al-Monitor.

“All countries are changing around us, the nearest of which is Saudi Arabia, which is encouraging foreign-flag yachts to visit the country. So it is time for Egypt to benefit from yacht tourism,” Mosalamy said.

Mosalamy added that Egyptian cities overlooking the Mediterranean, such as Marsa Matrouh, Alexandria, El Alamein, Damietta and Port Said, will benefit from yacht tourism as the largest percentage of yacht traffic comes through the Mediterranean Sea, and the Red Sea towns come in second place due to the crossing from the Suez Canal and the fees.

In 2016, the State Information Service reported that Egypt was interested in encouraging yacht tourism and establishing specialized ports on its shores, such as Marina Naama, the first yacht marina in Naama Bay in Sharm el-Sheikh, which was built with the latest methods. Technological and tourism experts considered this project an important step in the development of yachting tourism.

In the Red Sea governorate, the Hurghada Marina is located on an area of 60,000 square meters and includes all amenities needed for safe yacht mooring.

In the Gulf of Aqaba, the Taba Heights Marina provides safe berths and maintenance service along with all amenities. The Taba Heights Marina has a water area of 11,500 square meters and a depth ranging from 2.5 to 3 meters.

Mosalamy said that once the vital infrastructure changes are complete, promotional campaigns will be launched worldwide to invite tourists to bring their yachts to the country’s renovated coasts.

“I think Egypt will implement this soon because the country is already witnessing a complete development in all sectors. So the yacht tourism development will be carried out in the same success and in a speedy way, like other mega projects,” he said.

Alaa Khalifa, an international tourism marketing expert, told Al-Monitor, “When we succeed in developing yacht tourism, the state will receive three times more than it gains from domestic tourism.”

He pointed out that yacht tourism is flourishing in the Mediterranean region, and many countries are dependent on such wealthy tourists.

“There are 30,000 yachts roaming the Mediterranean. Spain, Italy and France are top countries in this kind of tourism,” Khalifa said.

Khalifa said Egypt lost huge profits over past periods due to the exaggeration of the fees for yachts mooring in Egypt, the fees for crossing the Suez Canal, and applying fees twice for a yacht when it moves from one marina to another inside Egyptian waters. This, he added, causes yacht owners to move to other nearby countries such as Lebanon, Israel and Turkey because of their yacht mooring tourist facilities.

“So it is necessary that all concerned people and bodies work hard in facilitating and developing such an important kind of tourism,” he added.

Khalifa added that paying attention to yacht tourism will boost Arab and Gulf tourism in Red Sea cities such as Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada and Marsa Alam, which are close to the Gulf countries.

“This requires making well-equipped berths to accommodate the expected movement,” he noted.

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