By Jake Threadgould
Madrid, Jan 18 (EFE).- Egypt, battered by Covid-19 and then the fallout of the war in Ukraine, is placing its bets on rapid tourism growth as a way out of the crises.
The twofold blow to the sector is undeniable, but tourism authorities are confident that Egypt has the potential to skyrocket its market share, and view it as a way to offset the ongoing inflation crisis.
“It hasn’t even scratched the surface,” Ahmed Issa, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, told Efe.
“Tourism still represents a lower than potential fair share of gross domestic product in Egypt, and because of the current account deficit in the country, tourism plays a most important part in economic policymaking.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the Fitur tourism conference taking place in Madrid, Issa said his ministry has set its sights on boosting the sector by 25-30% each year by 2028, both in terms of volume — from the number of plane seats arriving in Cairo to hotels — and revenue.
“What we’re going to see in 2023 is an indication of the success of that strategy,” the minister, appointed in August, added.
Egypt was not spared the screeching halt tourism witnessed during the pandemic but had begun to tentatively recover.
A peak of 13 million people visited Egypt in 2019, the year before the pandemic. The following year, those figures plummeted to 3.7 million before rebounding to 8 million in 2021 and then 4.9 million in the first half of 2022, according to Capmas, the country’s statistical office.
“Pandemics aside, there is a rising global middle class and demand for travel around the world. Egypt’s market share of the global travel market was around 1% in the last year before Covid,” Issa said.
“There is huge room for Egypt to continue to earn its fair market share, which I think is multiples of that market share in 2019.”
But no sooner had Egypt begun to recover a tourist industry that was all but paralyzed by the pandemic, it faced a fresh challenge after Russia turned European geopolitics on its head.
For Egypt, Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 gave rise to a multifaceted challenge as the war sent commodity prices surging and while clipping the wings of an important international tourism market — Eastern Europe.
In 2021, Eastern Europeans accounted for just over half of the international tourists in Egypt, according to Capmas.
“During the surge of the war, in February and March, we had a huge drop (in tourists),” Amr Elkady, CEO of the Egyptian Tourism Authority, told Efe.
“Not only Ukrainians, but Russians as well, from Belarus, from Poland. The entire continent got affected of course and is still affected by the rise in fuel prices and a huge increase in electricity and heating. The overall economy is suffering,” he added.
“However, we are lucky, with our very warm temperatures and weather conditions, we can actually be an alternative home for those who want to spend a less expensive winter. This is where Egypt is positioned now.”
To offset the drop in Eastern European tourists, Egypt has had to diversify its target audience, which in some cases have grown threefold, Issa said.
“The Spanish market, for example, has actually grown more than four times in 2022 compared to 2021,” the minister added. EFE