The Fifth Mediterranean Travel Fair (MTF) in Cairo opened Tuesday at the Cairo International Convention and Exhibition Center highlighting a message that Egypt's tourism flourishes despite the unstable political climate prevailing.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif appointed mid-July, after serving his post as minister for information and telecommunications, inaugurated the fair. He said Egypt is very much open for business to North America and the rest of the world. “We look to tourism as an important means for improving the economy and for generating new investments and new opportunities. It creates jobs for Egyptians at the same time, invites the world to view our beautiful setting. We value very much our relationship with the United States whether with the government or the people of America whose company we would like to enjoy more.”
Joining Nazif in the exhibition was new Minister for Information Dr. Mamdouh Beltagui who said Egypt has so much culture to offer the world that he would like to see a continuum of programs exchanged with other nations. "We welcome Americans to come and experience Egypt." He looks forward to forging strong bilateral cooperation with the US whether in terms of information or tourism trade whose department he handled in the last years - the most challenging by far in the history of the republic.
Despite being in office for barely two months, newly-appointed Minister for Tourism Ahmed El Maghraby is satisfied with the positive trend tourism is witnessing. He credits the internal support the industry is receiving from the private sector. The foremost target is to attract investments towards new targets. "The protocol of cooperation is to implement and develop the first programs in the Marsa Matrouh area including nine hotels, (five of which will be operated by TUI) to be delivered in 2005." El Maghraby is pleased that in such short notice, TUI is capable of accomplishing its goals of developing the resorts in such short period of time. He expects 300 more rooms to be added to the current inventory in the next couple of years.
As Egypt expects increased arrivals in the last quarter of the year, the fall being the tourism season awaiting post-recovery results, airports and major infrastructure brace for influx. Cairo, Luxor and Sharm el Sheikh airports have undergone massive expansion allowing for millions of Europeans– Italians and Germans in particular – to access beach destinations through to the winter, the most popular time for holidays for northern Europeans.
A great deal of demand from the UK coincides with plans to increase air service. Although a real problem still exists with domestic flights in Egypt, the Minister of Civil Aviation Ahmed Shafic confirmed he is aggressively looking for proper solutions for commercial airports to be ready by 2006. He aims at coordination with more foreign airliners to fill domestic and international terminals with passengers. "Sharm el Sheikh Airport, once complete with expansion, will be unparalleled in the region. Luxor will give our guests honorable reception while Aswan and Hurghada continues to bring more people with the new improved terminals." He stressed that though Marsa Matrouh may not be ready to increase aviation capacity, nonetheless airports should get ready in parallel with ongoing projects.
"Work management gives you an idea to be ready in time for the visitors. We prepare the airports to be in their best condition so travelers can see the system is definitely in place way before the hotels are built and global situations stabilize. If we choose the wait until given perfect conditions, we will only waste time." He admits the airports are being remodeled under difficult conditions however he chooses to proceed regardless in order to be ready for the next summer.
El Maghraby stressed the importance of Arab tourism to Egypt. “The Arab region comes second in terms of geographical areas from where we receive visitors,” referring to Europe as the biggest market of tourists to Egypt. “Better Arab cooperation in the field of tourism is even more feasible than improving the trade relations among Arab countries.”
He noted that inter-Arab tourism accounts for 42 percent of overall Arab tourism, while inter-Arab trade only accounts for 9 percent of overall Arab trade. He announced setting up more tourism offices in Arab countries encouraging more Arabs to visit Egypt while government of Egypt has decided on a set of policies to attract more Arab investment in the field of tourism, including lowering taxes among other benefits.
Due to the crisis in the region, Americans may not be ready to travel as yet to some destinations in the Middle East. However, El Maghraby confirms the North American market is showing positive signs for Egypt with 120,000 arrivals year to date, with the potential of increasing to 170,000 before 2004