The Ministry of Tourism is considering extending the duration of its new programme promoting domestic tourism, as the sector reels from falling numbers of foreign visitors.
The ministry’s “Egypt is in Our Hearts” programme, which aims to increase the numbers of Egyptians visiting Luxor and Aswan, could be extended to next March, according to an official at the ministry. Demand for the trips is expected to increase during the school vacations in February.
The official said the programme was launched at the start of the year, with a view to encouraging Egyptians to visit hotels in Luxor and Aswan, thus increasing their occupancy in the face of reduced numbers of foreign tourists.
Egypt’s tourism income retreated in the third quarter of this year to $1.7bn, 15% less than the same period last year.
Daily News Egypt revealed in August that the programme was to be extended to the end of 2015, instead of the start of October. In light of ongoing pressure on the tourism industry, the ministry may now extend the programme into 2016.
Egyptians taking part in the programme can book four or five nights in a hotel for under EGP 700. A complete deal, including return airline ticket costs EGP 1,690.
The ministry has arranged the deals in cooperation with the Egyptian Hotel Association and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, according to the official.
Bookings for the programme through December are on the rise, according to a source from Egypt Air Tourism and Duty Free (Karnak), which is affiliated to the tourism ministry and a partner in the scheme. He said demand had risen by 50% during the second half of November.
Tourism occupancy rates in the hotels involved are likely to top 40%, although these would likely decrease through December.
The official at the Ministry of Tourism said the ministry works with the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Egyptian Hotels Association and tourism companies to create tourists programmes that cover all tourists sites through the year.
The Egyptian Travel Agents Association has asked its members to present offers in order to participate in a tourism programme for Egyptians.
The tourism industry suffered a serious blow recently, with the downing of a Russian passenger jet in Sinai on 31 October. Investigators are still working to discover the full details of the incident.
Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou said that his ministry will work on three responses to the resulting loss of visitors from Russia and the United Kingdom to Sharm El-Sheikh.
Among the moves is a programme of trips to Sharm El-Sheikh targeting Egyptians, offering hotel deals of EGP 300 for three nights.
The ministry will seek to further increase domestic tourism among Egyptians, while boosting visitor numbers from the Gulf, North Africa and some European countries that did not issue travel warnings for Egypt.