Interview: Rania Al Mashat
How is Egypt aiming to diversify the source markets from which it is attracting tourists?
RANIA AL MASHAT: Tourism is an important pillar of Egypt’s economy, contributing 20% of GDP in 2018, and is also one of the fastest-growing sectors. Because of this and of the challenges the sector has faced in recent years, we felt it was necessary to put together the Egypt Tourism Reform Programme known as E-TRP, to create a very clear vision and overarching objective for the sector. There are goals for each of the pillars of reform that have been identified, and the steps needed to achieve these goals have been set out. This should act as a constitution for the sector, to raise its competitiveness and achieve a sustainable and diversified tourism sector in line with international standards.
As part of E-TRP, we are seeking to increase the diversity of our source markets. While we continue to work to increase the number of tourists from Europe, which currently accounts for 55% of tourists, our aim is to increase the share of tourists coming from other markets around the world. Given rising wealth in Asia and the number of tourists it represents, we see this as an opportunity to develop this market, as Egypt is attracting a smaller share than it should.
What improvements are being made in terms of both soft and hard infrastructure development?
AL MASHAT: Soft infrastructure consists of the human element, which is a key part of hospitality and tourism, and this will continue to be true even as the automation of other industries grows. This highlights the importance of capacity building and upgrading the skill sets of those working in the sector. This can take the form of training programmes for tour guides, increasing language skills in the industry, and programmes that focus on customer services and the expectations of different international travellers. Egypt is quite unique with respect to the different budgets and types of tourism on offer, whether cultural and historical, sun and sea, mountain hiking or nature reserves. The hardware makes reference to the physical infrastructure, meaning hotels and resorts, as well as airports and other means of transport that are in place to accommodate and facilitate the mobility of tourists and business visitors. Egypt has seen significant investment in this hard infrastructure with the government’s financing of roads across the country, the private sector’s building and renovation of hotels, and the much larger projects like the creation of the new Grand Egyptian Museum and construction the Sphinx International Airport. All of this will benefit the continued rebound of tourism.
To what extent can tourism play a role in increasing employment opportunities?
AL MASHAT: Egypt benefits from a whole range of touristic attractions, from ancient historical wonders like those in Aswan, Luxor and Giza, museums and cultural assets, to beaches and a year-round climate, so tourism has the potential to have a significant impact on economic growth and job creation. The overarching objective is to have one individual from every Egyptian household working directly or indirectly in the tourism sector. This would be substantive and felt by the population across the board, because with over 70 related industries, every job that is created in tourism also spawns three or four more indirect jobs. The generational aspect is also very important. Egypt is growing very quickly and has a large youth population, which can be seen as a challenge, but also as an asset. It is important that the government takes the lead in laying out a strategy for the sector and initiates certain programmes, but the real opportunity will be for players from the private sector. It is through enabling the private sector that it will be possible to achieve this level of reach in terms of both job creation and broad economic impact.
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