Egypt's Crippled Tourism Sector Searches for a Savior

Article Summary
The chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Federation says the struggling tourism sector needs a diplomat, not a businessman, at the head of the Ministry of Tourism, writes Hisham Shawqi. Occupancy at Egypt’s resort destinations is at a fraction of its maximum, and workers are fleeing to other sectors.

Elhamy al-Zayat, the chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, stressed the need to hold a meeting with President Mohammed Morsi to discuss the current crisis in the tourism sector and inform him of its real problems. Zayat also underlined the need to appoint a liberal figure to head the Ministry of Tourism, specifically one that understands the current critical situation of the tourism sector, which is susceptible to a total collapse.

Zayat told Al-Masry al-Youm that investments worth 200 billion Egyptian pounds, which is the size of investments in the tourism sector, are at risk. He said that the sector is currently in a debt crisis due to loans it took to continue regular business. He noted that the sector would also need to create liquidity to stimulate recovery in the industry’s businesses. Zayat confirmed the presence of other debts in government sectors such as insurance and taxes, adding that all these files need to be examined after considering the views of professionals and workers in order to make decisions that would produce better growth rates in the tourism sector for the upcoming winter season.

According to Zayat, a delegation from the tourism federation is awaiting the date of an appointment to meet with Morsi. He called on the president to appoint a liberal and competent person to head the Ministry of Tourism that can steer the sector during the current, critical stage. This is especially important because the liquidity crisis has prompted employees and workers in the tourism sector to move to other sectors that have more stable jobs.

He noted that the sector does not want to repeat the previous experience when a minister was chosen from the tourism sector, which led to negative results. He explained that what the sector needs most is a minister who has the ability to communicate with foreign countries and tourism-exporting markets. Zayat added that the next minister would also have to be able to change the negative perceptions that may result from irresponsible statements or media reports on Egypt. Irresponsible reports on events such as the Suez incident would prompt the tourism-exporting markets to refrain from conducting business with Egypt.

Zayat revealed that the short and long cruises in the Nile River have been greatly affected, noting that only 10 out of 270 floating hotels are currently operating. He said: “The occupancy rates are very low as a result of the security situation.”

Zayat called for organizing an international competition that would include international artists, as well as building an international monument in Tahrir Square. This monument would become a major tourist site and place this great square on the map of world tourism.

Zayat warned of the continuing demonstrations in front of the presidential palace, saying that the people must give the president a chance to work. He added that the negative image of demonstrations also affects the influx of tourists.

For his part, Osama al-Ashry, first undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism and supervisor of the villages and hotels sector, said that the occupancy rate for floating hotels is at 15%, which he described as low. Ashry said that the delay in resuming long Nile cruises is related to the construction of special marina berths for the boats. He added that the occupancy rate is at 45% in Sharm el-Sheikh, 50% in Hurghada, and between 20-25% in Luxor and Aswan.

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Found in: debt crisis, tourism minister, tourism, egyptian tourism federation, egyptian federation of chambers of tourism, egypt tourism, egypt, economic
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