Egypt Pulse

Egypt eyes World Cup as golden opportunity for economy

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Article Summary
After a 28-year absence, Egypt hopes to take advantage of its participation in the 2018 World Cup, hosted by Russia, to achieve some economic gains.

CAIRO — The 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup is set to begin June 14 in Russia, with Egypt joining the soccer competition after a 28-year absence.

The country will take advantage of this opportunity to revive its economy by promoting international tourism to Egypt, while trying to boost domestic consumption through marketing the local economy, such as the sales of sports items and visits to cafes and restaurants

The Egyptian tourism sector has been hit by a sharp decline since the 2011 protests and security unrest. The situation went further downhill with the terrorism-related crash of a Russian plane in Sinai in 2015. In an October 2017 article, Reuters reported that while 14.7 million visited Egypt in 2010, the numbers dropped to 9.8 million in 2011 and 4.5 million in 2016.

However, the secretary of Egypt’s parliamentary Tourism Committee, Ghada Sakr, told Al-Monitor, “The tourism sector in Egypt started recovering in 2017 as a result of the international tours of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his excellent management of Egypt’s foreign relations that promoted Egypt’s tourism sector. Egypt gained revenues estimated at $7.6 billion from tourism with the rise of the number of tourists up to 8.3 million in 2017.”

In a bid to take advantage of Egypt’s participation in the 2018 World Cup to promote Egyptian tourism, a member of Egypt’s parliamentary Human Rights Committee, Issam Farouk, submitted a proposal May 3 to Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Minister of Youth and Sports Khaled Abdel Aziz and Egyptian Football Association head Hany Abo Rida asking them to post photos of the most famous Egyptian Pharaonic tourist sites on the plane and bus carrying the Egyptian national team, and pushing for cooperation among all state institutions to advertise and promote tourism to Egypt in Russia.

Tourism expert Ashraf Sahsah said the successful promotion of Egyptian tourism during the World Cup begins in Egypt, which is currently gearing up to celebrate the Trail of the Holy Family, also set for June. The trail covers 25 landmarks, starting from al-Farma in northern Sinai all the way to the monastic complex of Dayr Durunka in Assiut in Middle Egypt.

“This event is expected to bring to Egypt around 1 million Christian pilgrims,” Sahsah told Al-Monitor. “If Egypt showed these visitors hospitality and ensured them a trouble-free stay, they could give Egypt the best publicity when they head back home.”

He said, “The economic returns from foreign visitors on the 15-day Trail of the Holy Family are estimated at $1 billion.”

When it comes to Egypt’s participation in the 2018 World Cup, Sahsah said, “Egyptian fans can be the best publicity for Egypt. They can wear Pharaonic costumes, distribute photos and postcards about Egypt’s monuments and tourist places, and boast about Egypt in front of foreigners during the World Cup.”

In a press statement May 10, Ahmed Youssef, the head of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board, said an ad campaign for Egypt will kick off during the World Cup in Russia. He said that billboards and screens showing advertisements for Egypt will be displayed on Russian streets and squares, and that commercials will run during matches.

The undersecretary of Egypt’s parliamentary Tourism Committee, Mohamed Abdel-Maksoud, told Al-Monitor, “The committee believes the World Cup is a great opportunity to put Egypt under the spotlight. The committee will provide legislative support to any step taken by the state so as to maximize benefit from this opportunity.”

Ashraf Shiha, a member of the chamber of Egypt's travel and tourism agencies, said in a press statement April 25 that the chamber expects about 3,000 Egyptian fans to travel to Russia at a cost ranging 45,000-160,000 Egyptian pounds ($2,500 to $8,900).

He said that to facilitate the travel of Egypt’s fans to Russia, some of the travel agencies, working together with banks, offered several packages suiting various social segments. These were advertised in newspapers and on social media.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s government is seeking to increase its 2018 tourism revenues by solving the sector’s problems. These include conflicts in laws and ministerial decisions on floating hotels and the difficulty involved in obtaining visas to Egypt.

Egypt's qualification for the 2018 World Cup is a major economic gain for Egypt, with expected revenue from the international soccer body FIFA of at least $11.5 million.

FIFA decided Oct. 8 to provide a reward estimated at $2 million for each of the five African teams that qualified for the tournament. The Egyptian Football Association allocated the money to soccer camps, the preparations of the Egyptian national team and the disbursement of rewards to players.

FIFA also said each of the 32 qualifying teams for the 2018 World Cup will receive $1.5 million ahead of the tournament as preparation costs. The total prize money is $400 million. Teams eliminated at the group stage will receive $8 million each, with the prize amount increasing with every stage.

Mohammed Banhawy, a sports critic at the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, told Al-Monitor, “The total amount that Egypt is expected to earn at the group stage is estimated at $10 million. This amount is likely to increase if Egypt enters [any further] stage.”

He said Adidas, the national team’s kit manufacturer from 2014 to 2018, did not pay any money to the Egyptian Football Association in return for being chosen to supply the team with the official kit for the 2018 World Cup. Banhawy, however, added that after Egypt's qualification to the 2018 World Cup and the end of the quadrennial tournament, the Egyptian Football Association will announce a global tender that will include the largest international companies specialized in sportswear manufacturing. The bidder offering the highest amount will be selected as the team’s official supplier.

Banhawy said Presentation Sports, the official sponsor of the Egyptian national team, reaped huge profits from advertising its brand after the team qualified for the World Cup. He said Presentation Sports rewarded the team with $125,000 in addition to other rewards offered in return for its sponsorship of any boot camp organized by the team inside or outside Egypt.

“The World Cup will generate other profits to the state treasury,” Banhawy said. He said there would be an increase in tax proceeds from cafes and restaurants that should earn more income as a result of showing the World Cup matches, attracting hundreds of thousands of soccer fans across Egypt. This is in addition to the boost in monies paid for advertising, as ad companies will seek to run their commercials during highly viewed matches.

Banhawy believes Egypt’s labor market will get a boost from Egypt’s participation in the 2018 World Cup, with many job opportunities created during the tournament. Cafes and restaurants will require more workers, not to mention the increased sales of the national team’s jerseys and flag.

Commenting on the role of the national team in promoting Egyptian tourism during the World Cup, Banhawy blamed the Egyptian Football Association for not incorporating in the team’s kit any reference to the pyramids, the Sphinx or Pharaonic temples. He said some of the countries participating in the tournament are featuring prominent national symbols on their jerseys.

The kit of Saudi Arabia’s national team bears the falcon badge, while the national team of Cameroon opted for a lion's face on the front side of the jersey.

Many say sports is business. Sports economist Said Shalabi said Nov. 16 at Akhbar al-Youm Fourth Economic Conference that sports’ annual contribution to Egypt’s economy is 1.8%, or about 49 billion Egyptian pounds ($2.74 billion). “We have to deal with sports as an industry before being a means of entertainment.”

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Hani Sameer is an Egyptian journalist who has worked as the editor of Al-Shorouk newspaper and the news site AraGeek.

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