Egypt will, in early July, resume international flights to some tourism-centred coastal cities with the least number of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections, the cabinet announced last Thursday.
Egypt’s tourism-dependent governorates opening up to international tourists include South Sinai, Red Sea, and Matrouh. The gradual opening up follows on from the country’s suspension of international flights on 19 March, to limit the spread of the pandemic.
Hesham El-Damery, former chairperson of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board, praised the decision to resume Egypt’s inbound tourism. He said that the tourism sector’s recovery will take some time to return to pre-coronavirus levels, dependant on some factors.
These factors include a reluctance to travel on the back of the global economic crisis caused by the pandemic. El-Damery noted that, if people do decide to travel, they would most likely decide to travel to destinations closer to home, to save money.
“Due to social distancing restrictions, I expect airline companies will raise the cost of their tickets, so travelling will not be easy decision, except for the social segments above the middle class,” he said.
El-Damery noted that these factors are affecting the global tourism industry in general, rather than just Egypt’s. He praised the government’s proactive steps in hotel sterilisation and disinfection, and in applying all precautionary measures for the resumption of tourism.
On the other hand, El-Damery revealed that 60% of tourism exporters to Egypt are those markets which have been most affected by the coronavirus. These include Germany, England, Italy, Spain, and France.
El-Damery said that Egypt has to look at attracting new markets, particularly those countries in Asia which recovered quickly from the coronavirus. Among these, he recommended that Egypt look at attracting Chinese tourists, in particular.
“We must conduct market studies and change our promotional message, to keep up with the pandemic circumstances,” El-Damery said. “We had a 75% reliance on chartered flights but I expect that it will not return with the same intensity, due to social distancing restrictions.”
El-Damery added that cooperation between the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Egyptian airlines is necessary to compensate the shortage of charter flights.
Former head of the Egyptian Tourism Federation (ETF) Elhamy El-Zayat agrees with El-Damery. Speaking to Daily News Egypt, El-Zayat said that he expects low demand, with three categories of travellers making up global tourism movement.
“Among these three categories includes single males aged between 20- 40 that have a fixed income, in addition to males and females aged 20-40 that are from the middle class, while the last category is backpacker tourists,” he forecast.
Chairperson of the Egyptian Hotel Association (EHA) in the Red Sea, Alaa Akel, told Daily News Egypt that he expects low demand. Just as he praised the decision to resume inbound tourism to Egypt, he added that this low demand is still better than the lockdown and halting tourism movement. He also expects better occupancy rates in the winter season.
He mentioned that Italy has expressed its keenness to resume tourism to Hurghada starting from 1 July. Germany will start allowing its tourism to return starting from 31 August, in addition to Ukraine which will allow the activity resumption during early to mid-August.