Egypt wants to attract 30-40 million tourists every year within five years and is looking to triple the number of airline seats into the country to do it, while keeping the same number of airports.
On Monday at World Travel Market in London, recently appointed Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Ahmed Issa, laid out a bold vision for achieving that visitor goal, substantially up from the 11 million today. The strategy includes boosting the low-cost carrier market, cooperating much more with the private sector, creating independent think tanks to deliver reliable market insights, and reallocating budgets to ensure growth will be possible.
Issa—whose background is in banking, with more than 20 years spent at CIB Egypt, the country’s leading private sector bank—said: “The number one and most important factor is to get aviation to triple the seats into Egypt. More than 90% of tourists arrive by air and, within the mix, we want to bring the low-cost carrier share to more than 30%.”
He added that he would overhaul the tourism investment environment to attract more capital inflows. “Egypt only has about 210,000 hotel rooms today and we need at least another 300,000 if we are to serve 30 million tourists a year. That requires around $20 billion in investment in addition to the value of the land,” he said.
By improving the investment climate in Egypt, which requires cross-ministry policy shifts, Issa hopes to bring in private equity and hotel management companies to create new tourism opportunities. “To do that we will have to enhance public spending programs, reallocate budgets and spend more money on advertising and communications,” said Issa.
Over the past three years, Egypt has changed tourism laws with participation from the private sector. The latest legislative changes are coming before the end of the year which will lead to “sweeping reforms” in the way that decisions are made with respect to private sector involvement in travel and tourism. “It is going to be private sector-led growth,” Issa emphasized, “by creating some magnificent investment opportunities.”
Research conducted by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities indicates that, globally, there is an addressable market of 272 million people in 12 major markets who are interested in visiting Egypt. Capturing just 10% of this market will be the initial aim in the coming five years.
It is not the demand side that Egypt needs to fix, but the supply side. The inadequate number of hotels, the service levels of its airports (all state-run), and access into the country through the visa system are all under review.
“We are improving our airports,” said Issa. “The government has in place the highest ever program of public spending for airports and opening new ones in the west of Cairo (Sphinx International) and on the northern coast (El Alamein International).”
Speaking to AirportIR, he said: “We have enough airports, but we need to spend heavily to improve the customer experience and also extend the capacity of all our existing airports. Improvements to baggage delivery, ground handling and ATC systems are all things that we will look at.”