Egyptian tourism reopens slowly but cautiously

26 August 2020

Egypt received more than 30,000 tourists from Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, Switzerland, and Serbia in July, says Egypt’s Minister of tourism and antiquities, Dr Khaled El-Enany. Domestic tourism is also on the up, a demographic of high value since 41% of all tourism spending in Egypt was undertaken by locals in 2019, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

International tourism reopened to Egypt as of July 01, but only to three of the country’s most popular coastal destinations that were reportedly free of Covid-19: South Sinai, the Red Sea and Matrouh on Egypt’s North Coast.

Since then, those governorates have reported zero positive cases whether among the tourists or employees, says Minister El-Enany in mid-August.

“We expect tourism in coastal governorates to continue to do well in the coming months for the extended summer season. By the end of the summer season, we shift our focus to Cairo and Upper Egypt (Luxor and Aswan); we plan to resume tourism to these destinations very soon. We are hopeful that cultural tourism picks up before the winter,” he adds.

To diversify Egypt’s offering to tourists, the country has opened an archeological museum in Hurghada and is soon to launch another in Sharm El-Sheikh. 

The careful reopening of Egypt’s tourism market is of utmost importance to the country’s economy. While it is encouraging that Egypt received over 30,000 tourists in July, the scale of the recovery still needed is put into context when remembering that, in July 2018, Egypt welcomed 1.1 million tourist arrivals, according to Statista.

The pandemic has hit all tourism markets, but especially those that rely on the industry more than others. This is one reason why Egypt is ranked in the world’s top 25 most vulnerable tourists markets, according to NS Media Group's Tourism Vulnerability Index.

Indeed, the sector employed nearly 10% of Egypt’s 30 million person workforce in 2019 and accounted for 9.3% of the nation’s GDP that year, according to the WTTC.

On March 19, 2020, Egypt stopped air traffic both in and out of the country, while a strict lockdown was implemented shortly after. In sum, the country’s tourism market came to a complete halt until May 15, when the government started to gradually reopen hotels and resorts that obtained the new ‘Hygiene Safety Certificate’, albeit with a maximum occupancy rate of 25%. The occupancy rate was increased to 50% on June 01, while by the end of that month the nation started to gradually reopen tourist-facing restaurants with the aforementioned certificate.

Egypt also implemented wide ranging and concerted financial support mechanisms to avoid mass unemployment in the sector, and a six-month tax holiday for real-estate tax payments that were due on hotel and tourist establishments, to name just a few policies.

In terms of stimulating demand, tourists now arriving directly to the Red Sea, South Sinai, Matrouh, Luxor, and Aswan governorates are exempt from visa fees until October 31, 2020.

“We increasingly see countries able to coexist with Covid-19 when implementing all the necessary health and safety measures. There is still a huge appetite for tourists to spend vacations in Egypt and we want to make this as safe as possible for global travelers and Egyptians,” concludes Minister El-Enany.



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