Tourism strat­egy tar­gets 16.6m vis­i­tors by 2020

ROAD MAP SEEKS TO AN­SWER THREE QUES­TIONS: WHERE ARE WE? WHERE DO WE WANT TO BE? HOW DO WE ACHIEVE OUR GOALS

The Daily News Egypt - - Front Page -

More­over, the strat­egy seeks to an­swer three ques­tions: where does the tourism sec­tor stand at the mo­ment? What are the ambitions of the state and the sec­tor’s work­ers re­gard­ing the strat­egy? How can these ambitions be ac­com­plished within two years?

MP Amr Sedky, mem­ber of the eco­nomic com­mit­tee of par­lia­ment, and Adel Rady, chair­per­son of the Tourism In­vestors As­so­ci­a­tion in MarsaAlam,in ad­di­tion to the for­mer chair­per­son of the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (IATA), Has­sanAziz,also took part in the sem­i­nar.

Be­low are the par­tic­i­pants’ an­swers to the ques­tions fielded dur­ing the sem­i­nar, lightly edited for clar­ity.

What led you to de­vel­op­ing the strat­egy at the pre­sent time?

El-Zayyat: The tourism sec­tor went through many crises in the 1990s, such as the Deir Al-Ba­hari in­ci­dent.The re­cent crises the sec­tor has been go­ing through has been con­tin­u­ous.

Be­fore 2010, there were strong ministers able to deal with var­i­ous crises, such as Fouad Sul­tan, then Mam­douh Al-Belt­agy.

Ter­ror­ism would hit hard, but the sec­tor would then soon re­cover within a few months. The re­cent crises, how­ever, took a long time to re­cover from be­cause of the neg­li­gence of the of­fi­cials in charge of the tourism sec­tor.Thus, at the time, we should have moved to cre­ate this strat­egy and set it, which we are dis­cussing now.

I would like to point out that the chair­per­son of the ECES has shown a lot of sup­port to de­velop this strat­egy.

This co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the ECES and the pri­vate sec­tor is very good. How­ever, we faced many dif­fi­cul­ties in find­ing ac­cu­rate fig­ures on the tourism sec­tor.

We worked for six months in or­der to de­velop this strat­egy,and it is a short-term one be­cause the sec­tor is one that goes through many changes.

In light of the ab­sence of fig­ures, some sta­tis­tics were in­ac­cu­rate, es­pe­cially be­cause each min­is­ter has tried to pre­sent sta­tis­tics that sat­isfy the political lead­er­ship.

To over­come this is­sue, we re­sorted to the fig­ures is­sued by the WorldTourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WTO) in­stead of the main soruce, which is the Min­istry of Tourism.

Have you sensed a re­cov­ery in the sec­tor’s indi­ca­tors over the past pe­riod?

Ab­dul­latif: We have started the re­cov­ery phase.The global tourism in­dus­try changes rapidly, and other com­pet­ing com­pa­nies take swift steps, un­like us.

We must ad­mit, how­ever, that the tourism sec­tor is quickly im­pacted by political events, which may be out of our con­trol, such as the events tak­ing place in the Mid­dle East re­gion.

We can fix the sit­u­a­tion of the sec­tor as much as we can with the aim of ob­tain­ing our share of in­ter­na­tional tourism, which ex­ceeded 1.2 bil­lion peo­ple last year.

This strat­egy is a new road map for the sec­tor, and it was the re­sult of a so-called com­pet­i­tive­ness ob­ser­va­tory.

The tourism sec­tor is the first ser­vice ac­tiv­ity to see a strat­egy made specif­i­cally for it, as the idea of an ob­ser­va­tory re­lies on eval­u­at­ing our sit­u­a­tion com­pared to our com­peti­tors and the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket of tourism in gen­eral.

This ob­ser­va­tory com­pared Egypt with three groups of coun­tries that rep­re­sent strong tourism des­ti­na­tions, in­clud­ing Spain, France, and Italy.The sec­ond group is Turkey and Greece,and the third is com­prised of Tu­nisia, Morocco, and Jor­dan.

The as­pects of com­par­i­son in­cluded price of ser­vices, in­fra­struc­ture, and the natural re­sources of each des­ti­na­tion.

The road map seeks to an­swer three ques­tions: where are we? Where do we want to be? How do we achieve our goals?

The strat­egy aims to make Egypt a high-qual­ity tourism des­ti­na­tion by 2020.We could not de­velop a vi­sion that ap­plies for a longer pe­riod of time be­cause global tourism changes very fast.

We have a goal for each mar­ket based on the size of its pop­u­la­tion and kind of ac­tiv­ity.We di­vided ac­tiv­i­ties into four different groups based on tourist spend­ing .

Spend­ing rates for the var­i­ous tourism pat­terns start from less than $25 to up to $250 per night.

When will you dis­cuss this strat­egy with the Min­istry of Tourism?

Ab­dul­latif: We made a deal with the Tourism Min­istry to have a work pro­gramme for this strat­egy over the up­com­ing pe­riod.

This road map aims to cre­ate all kinds of re­form sin the sec­tor, whether they are in­sti­tu­tional, leg­isla­tive, or labour train­ing.

Was this road map con­nected to the in­fra­struc­ture of the sec­tor?

Ab­dul­latif:Yes, the strat­egy has in­deed been linked to in­fra­struc­ture, such as air­ports and oth­ers, and we seek to ben­e­fit from the tourism ex­per­tise in Egypt as the sec­tor re­cov­ers.

El-Zayyat: I would like to point out that the tourism sec­tor has lost about two-thirds of its trained labour over the past seven years.

Ab­dul­latif: The var­i­ous tourist prod­ucts in Egypt are like the process of pro­duc­ing cot­ton t-shirts; they are pro­duced in good qual­ity but the whole world turns to polyester.

How do you see the mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion of the tourism sec­tor in the past pe­riod?

El-Zayyat: Over the past year, there was no mar­ket­ing in the ac­tual sense, as the con­cept is a sci­ence, and all the Tourism Pro­mo­tion Author­ity has done is pro­mo­tion.To mar­ket, how­ever, it re­quires stud­ies and re­search of the mar­ket and the tar­get seg­ments ad­dressed by these Egyp­tian tourism prod­ucts.We need spec­i­fies brand­ing for Egypt, which is a ma­jor thing,as pro­mo­tion is the last step in mar­ket­ing.

I get asked: will the Chi­nese mar­ket re­place the Rus­sian mar­ket in terms of the an­nual num­ber of in­bound tourism? And my an­swer is a def­i­nite no. It is dif­fi­cult to do this.

Chi­nese tourists pre­fer the ar­eas clos­est to them, es­pe­cially be­cause a large num­ber of them looks to gambl or shop in West­ern Eu­ro­pean coun­tries or the United States. Ma­cao, for ex­am­ple, receives about 35 mil­lion Chi­nese tourists an­nu­ally.

Is co­or­di­na­tion be­tween ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­i­ties and the pri­vate sec­tor lack­ing? Is this what the strat­egy seeks to im­prove?

Nas­sar: It is nec­es­sary to put the ef­forts in the sec­tor into a uni­form frame­work in a de­lib­er­ate man­ner, and at the end, we are talk­ing about a coun­try and pre­sent­ing it to the world. If it was pre­sented badly by one per­son, this will cer­tainly hurt the rep­u­ta­tion of ev­ery­one else and af­fect the ex­ist­ing prod­ucts.

The tourism in­dus­try is a com­mod­ity, in which many fac­tors are in­volved, so it is nec­es­sary to cre­ate har­mony among them.

The Egyp­tian Tourism Fed­er­a­tion was the in­ter­me­di­ary be­tween all par­ties, in­clud­ing com­pa­nies and ho­tels. It de­liv­ered our mes­sages to the min­istry to come up with an in­te­grated plan to mar­ket Egyp­tian tourism.

How does the road map deal with the over­lap­ping of spe­cial­ties in terms of port­fo­lio man­age­ment?

Ab­dul­latif:One of the neg­a­tives we are cur­rently fac­ing is the man­age­ment of Cairo In­ter­na­tional Air­port, as it is sub­ject to more than one re­spon­si­ble author­ity, which destroys all ag­gre­gated ef­forts. Co­or­di­na­tion and or­gan­i­sa­tion are im­por­tant poli­cies.

The state is obliged to work within the frame­work of these poli­cies in a way that does not cause is­sues dur­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Nas­sar: From 1968 un­til 2010, crises that arose were over quickly and did not take over a year and a half to solve, as long as min­istries worked to­gether to get out of them swiftly.

Ab­dul­latif: There is no com­par­i­son be­tween the cur­rent events and the past crises.We need to move fast to com­pen­sate for the losses of the past seven years.

Nas­sar: Look­ing at fig­ures and sta­tis­tics from 2008 un­til 2010, we will then see the im­por­tance of the sec­tor and note that the cur­rent fig­ures are only signs to guide us to over­com­ing the is­sues we face and the next steps to take.

How do you view the sit­u­a­tion of labour train­ing?

Nas­sar: One of the chal­lenges we are fac­ing is reach­ing the past numbers of work­ers in the sec­tor, over 85% of whom have aban­donded it, leav­ing no sub­sti­tutes be­hind.

This re­quires some changes in terms of the way the tourism sec­tor is seen and its im­por­tance to the na­tional econ­omy.This will help the flow of tourism to Egypt.

We had about 1.8 mil­lion work­ers di­rectly trained for the sec­tor, and un­for­tu­nately, dur­ing the past pe­riod, the pub­lic money to train them was wasted as a re­sult of shut­ting down train­ing fa­cil­i­ties that con­tained equipment worth mil­lions of pounds, and many work­ers lost their jobs as a re­sult of not get­ting con­sis­tently paid.

El-Zayyat:The tourism sec­tor re­ceived €15m to train its work­ers when Fayza Aboul Naga as­sumed the po­si­tion of min­is­ter of in­vest­ment. Since then, we started re­ceiv­ing fund­ing from sev­eral min­istries to train the work­ers of the sec­tor.

Ab­dul­latif: De­vel­op­ing train­ing pro­grammes for work­ers in the sec­tor must oc­cur within a time­frame, with the proper se­lec­tion of train­ers. Fund­ing must not oc­cur with­out look­ing at a mech­a­nism to im­ple­ment the train­ing pro­grammes.

MAK­ERS OF TOURISM VI­SION LAY OUT PLAN AT DNE-LED SEM­I­NAR

The for­mer chair­per­son of the Egyp­tianTourism Fed­er­a­tion (ETF), El­hamy El-Zayyat, and mem­ber of the board of di­rec­tors of the Egyp­tian Cham­ber Ho­tel , Haitham Nas­sar, laid out a strat­egy to de­velop the tourism sec­tor within the next two years, in co­op­er­a­tion with Abla Ab­dul­latif, chair­per­son of the Egyp­tian Cen­tre for Eco­nomic Stud­ies (ECES).

That vi­sion, pre­sented at a sem­i­nar led by Daily News Egypt, aims to at­tract 16.6 mil­lion tourists to Egypt through 2020, through im­prov­ing the leg­isla­tive struc­ture of the sec­tor and qual­i­fy­ing its el­e­ments, in­clud­ing in terms of labour, ho­tel rooms, and tourist trans­port fleets. By Ab­del Razik Shuweikhy

THIS ROAD

MAP AIMS TO

CRE­ATE ALL

KINDS OF

RE­FORMS IN

THE SEC­TOR

WE MUST AD­MIT THAT THE SEC­TOR HAS MANY IS­SUES THAT NEED TO BE AD­DRESSED, AND PRES­I­DENT AL-SISI PAYS GREAT ATTENTION TO THIS IS­SUE AT THE PRE­SENT TIME.

NOWA­DAYS, ANY­ONE WITH A SUM OF MONEY CAN START UP A TOURISM COM­PANY WITH­OUT AD­HER­ING TO THE STAN­DARDS OF PRAC­TIC­ING THIS PRO­FES­SION

The ex­ist­ing re­sources are not prop­erly utilised. The road map in­cludes max­imis­ing the avail­able re­sources and mak­ing use of the wasted op­por­tu­ni­ties, such as, for ex­am­ple, giv­ing attention to con­fer­ence or fes­ti­val tourism.

Aziz: The dif­fer­ence be­tween us and any ad­vanced coun­try in terms of tourism, such as Dubai, is that the state takes care of leg­is­lat­ing the laws and de­ci­sions ac­cord­ing to which the pri­vate sec­tor works.

The sec­tor has many com­plex laws that force of­fi­cials to back out in fear of crises.

Do you think that the state’s in­ter­fer­ence in the ac­tiv­ity is harm­ful?

Aziz: If the state in­ter­feres in the de­tails of op­er­a­tions, we will not suc­ceed, be­cause the state is not re­ally a good manager. If legislation were made prop­erly, we could at­tract over 20 mil­lion tourists an­nu­ally.We must of­fer in­cen­tives in the sec­tor.

We also need legislation for the func­tion­ing of air­ports and for the in­fra­struc­ture of tourism and avi­a­tion.

When the in­ci­dent of the Rus­sian plane oc­curred, we could not trans­port tourists be­cause there was no strong Egyp­tian avi­a­tion arm, hence, tourists had to travel through Ukrainian air­lines.

There must be legislation to al­low pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies to work in the man­age­ment of Egyp­tian air­ports.

El-Zayyat:We have seven different en­ti­ties oper­at­ing Cairo In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Aziz:All par­ties could unite to run the air­port un­der one um­brella. Does the road map in­clude new tourist pat­terns that we should pay more attention to?

El-Zayyat: Con­fer­ence tourism has not been prop­erly utilised, un­for­tu­nately. Pre­vi­ously, we ar­ranged a con­fer­ence for po­di­a­try ill­nesses and in­vited 6,000 doc­tors and their wives, mak­ing the to­tal num­ber of arrivals 9,000.

Cape Town recorded 100% oc­cu­pa­tion through or­gan­is­ing med­i­cal con­fer­ences, even though it is clas­si­fied as one of the most un­safe ci­ties in the world.

Ab­dul­latif: Man­ag­ing the sys­tem is more im­por­tant than laws, and we have many laws that have not been en­forced.

Amr Sedky:The tourism in­dus­try has be­come open and any tourism in­vestor is likely to deal with par­ties other than the Min­istry of Tourism, which would kill any new in­vest­ments, but changes are happening with the new laws re­cently is­sued by par­lia­ment.

When we think of the uni­fied tourism law, there were different vi­sions of it.The aim, how­ever, was to cre­ate an out­let for each min­istry through which it can deal with in­vestors in ac­cor­dance with its own laws.This led to in­vestors deal­ing with laws they did not even know about.

At that time, I talked to Mo­hamed Badr,the gover­nor of Luxor who was, at the time, the assistant min­is­ter of tourism. We started ag­gre­gat­ing all the laws and de­ci­sions in or­der to con­sider uni­fy­ing them.

Work­ers in the field of tourism were called am­bas­sadors thanks to their hos­pi­tal­ity with for­eign­ers. Egyp­tian hos­pi­tal­ity was a land­mark. The clear decline in the sec­tor of tourism, how­ever, is the re­sult of the pres­ence of out­siders who do not have a pro­fes­sional and con­sci­en­tious back­ground.

Nowa­days, any­one with a sum of money can start up a tourism com­pany with­out ad­her­ing to the stan­dards of prac­tic­ing this pro­fes­sion.

I be­lieve that train­ing will be able to fix these is­sues. In fact, when we stud­ied the work mech­a­nisms of the sec­tor, we re­alised that some stan­dards are in­her­ited from a gen­er­a­tion to an­other, which can be utilised well when de­vel­op­ing train­ing cour­ses.

For ex­am­ple, we dis­cov­ered through a study that most work­ers in food and cater­ing sec­tor are from the gover­norate of Shar­qeya, hence, we moved the train­ing pro­gramme in this field to Shar­qeya.

Avi­a­tion is one of the most im­por­tant port­fo­lios in the sec­tor; how can it serve Egyp­tian tourism?

Sedky:If we look at the ex­pe­ri­ence of the UAE, we will see how Dubai In­ter­na­tional Air­port im­proved the city’s tourism.

An of­fi­cial from the Emi­rates told me about how avi­a­tion helped the tourism sec­tor in his coun­try, and said that if avi­a­tion ever faced losses, the state will sup­port it. New pat­terns such as tran­sit tourism are now in­tro­duced and are be­com­ing more ben­e­fi­cial.

Dubai cre­ated high-qual­ity prod­ucts, which it started mar­ket­ing and pro­mot­ing . In Egypt, our main is­sue is the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Dubai’s ad­min­is­tra­tion launched a shop­ping fes­ti­val in March and cre­ated de­mand for it, then they started launch­ing con­fer­ence tourism,mak­ing tourism ac­tive through­out the year.

The UAE is good at uni­fied plan­ning, which is an as­pect we lack. A clear ex­am­ple on this would be the ab­sence of plan­ning for the cre­ation of e-visas. We have been dis­cussing this for many years, but the Min­istry ofTourism has a vi­sion,while the Min­istry of In­te­rior has an­other vi­sion, and the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs has a com­pletely different vi­sion.

Rady: Is avi­a­tion part of the road map?

Ab­dul­latif:This port­fo­lio re­quires a spe­cific strat­egy. How­ever, I would like to point out that you can­not iso­late the sec­tor of tourism from the sec­tors of avi­a­tion and an­tiq­ui­ties.

Rady: What about the strat­egy’s vi­sion for tourism in­vest­ment?

Nas­sar: There are over 225,000 rooms in Egypt within the tourism sec­tor.When we had a smaller num­ber of rooms, we were still able to at­tract 14 mil­lion tourists an­nu­ally, and that was in 2010.We de­manded from the state to stop pro­vid­ing li­censes for new ho­tels in or­der to main­tain de­mand and prices.

We must look at the avail­able ho­tel rooms we have now, and their sit­u­a­tion seven years af­ter the re­ces­sion they wit­nessed.

We have five-star ho­tels mar­keted abroad as three-star ho­tels, and we have the tools to change this sit­u­a­tion now, so we must start.

Will we be see­ing a uni­fied tourism law dur­ing the up­com­ing pe­riod?

Sedky:There has been a de­sire to is­sue a uni­fied tourism law and I think this may re­quire two leg­isla­tive ses­sions be­cause this is an im­por­tant and com­plex law.

Through­out the past leg­isla­tive ses­sions, par­lia­ment was bur­dened with many ur­gent bills to be passed re­lated to the eco­nomic re­form pro­gramme.

Re­cently,I sub­mit­ted a draft law on ther­a­peu­tic tourism.There are many bills to be ap­proved, such as the in­vest­ment law, and the one-per­son com­pa­nies law.

Rady:There is a state of chaos re­gard­ing the laws gov­ern­ing the sec­tor. They must be solved to push the sec­tor for­ward. Egypt has a low rank in terms of the coun­tries that en­force laws, which is very ques­tion­able.

Nas­sar: Neigh­bour­ing coun­tries have laid out poli­cies and are im­ple­ment­ing suc­ces­sive and rapid pro­grammes in or­der to de­velop their tourism prod­ucts.

Re­gard­ing mar­ket­ing, and with new ten­ders launched, did the com­pany J Wal­ter Thomp­son fail to man­age the cam­paign?

Nas­sar: As a state sec­tor and a state, we are re­spon­si­ble for the fail­ure of the mar­ket­ing cam­paign, as vi­sions over­lapped, and pro­grammes were not de­vel­oped based on the re­cent changes that oc­curred at the end of 2015.

The com­pany’s ac­tiv­ity was halted for a year,and its mar­ket­ing cam­paigns started to be ac­tive only re­cently.

Sedky:The com­pany had to make a mod­i­fi­ca­tion to its mar­ket­ing work strate­gies af­ter the in­ci­dent of the Rus­sian plane at the end of Oc­to­ber 2015.

Nas­sar:At that time,we de­manded the Min­istry of Tourism to main­tain the al­lo­cated fund­ing. How­ever, the mar­ket­ing work was halted.

El-Zayyat: The for­mer min­is­ter led a chaotic sys­tem with his pro­gramme. He planned to im­ple­ment six pro­grammes in six months, but in­stead, he spent his term fight­ing against in­vestors.

He crit­i­cised the char­ter flight sys­tem and wanted to pay the late dues of air­line com­pa­nies in Egyp­tian pounds, in­clud­ing the Egyp­tian Hold­ing Com­pany for Air­ports. His at­tempt was not ac­cepted, and the com­pany de­manded its dues in dol­lars.

I be­lieve that the new min­is­ter has a lot to work on.She as­sumed her po­si­tion shortly be­fore the ITB Ber­lin fair and man­aged to par­tic­i­pate in it.

Sedky: I do not sup­port the idea of ministers or gov­er­nors tak­ing part in for­eign af­fairs, as we have an author­ity to pro­mote tourism and that is its job. Ministers should re­main in their of­fices to solve the is­sues of the sec­tor in­stead of con­stantly trav­el­ing un­less it is nec­es­sary, which is what Mam­douh El-Belt­agy tried to make hap­pen.The sec­tor is full of bur­dens. How do you see the cri­sis of failing ho­tels?

El-Zayyat:We have made great ef­forts in this re­gard over the past years. The Papyrus fund was es­tab­lished to help failing com­pa­nies and ho­tels. Hisham Za­zou, the for­mer min­is­ter of tourism, wanted to al­lo­cate EGP 50m for the is­sue of troubled com­pa­nies, but the min­is­ter of tourism who suc­ceeded him stopped the de­ci­sion. Luck­ily, the new min­is­ter of tourism an­nounced re­cently that the fund will be re­ac­ti­vated.

Why did the for­mer min­is­ter halt the tourism in­vest­ment fund?

El-Zayyat: He wanted 20% of the fund’s money to be al­lo­cated for new troubled projects, which was de­clined. No money was in­jected and the whole project was halted.

We re­ceived many Chi­nese of­fers to fi­nance the fund, and there was also fi­nan­cial sur­plus from Ara­bian Gulf coun­tries al­lo­cated for the same pur­pose, but now the cir­cum­stances are different.

We must ad­mit that the sec­tor has many is­sues that need to be ad­dressed, and Pres­i­dent Al-Sisi pays great attention to this is­sue at the pre­sent time.

We have the sun, sand, and air. Three main el­e­ments for tourism. We also have our an­tiq­ui­ties.

It is worth not­ing that there are 280 float­ing ho­tels on the river­way that have been idle for seven years.

How does the road map see the is­sue of qual­ity and ef­fi­ciency of ser­vices in the sec­tor?

Nas­sar: Like I said ear­lier, we have de­manded from the min­istry to sus­pend the li­cens­ing of new ho­tels.To in­crease the ef­fi­ciency of ser­vices, these ho­tels must be sub­ject to spe­cific stan­dards.

I be­lieve that the past pe­riod is re­spon­si­ble for the de­clined qual­ity, as in­vestors with­out vi­sion en­tered the sec­tor with the aim of mak­ing quick prof­its.

There is also an­other se­ri­ous prob­lem, which is that in­vestors wanted to in­clude all tourist ac­tiv­i­ties in their busi­nesses, which would re­sult in a break­down of the sec­tor; some­thing that we can al­ready see right now.

Gen­er­ally, with­out en­forc­ing new norms, we will see cases of food poi­son­ing and ha­rass­ment.

Are we ready to face the ex­pected tourism flows as re­cov­ery takes place?

Nas­sar: If we do not fol­low the strat­egy, we will end up at a dead­end.The sec­tor is full of ex­per­tise to be utilised to get out of this cri­sis, es­pe­cially with the re­sump­tion of flights be­tween Egypt and Rus­sia. How­ever, in my opin­ion, this has a very limited im­pact on the tourism sec­tor.

Sedky: I do not ex­pect to see Rus­sian tourists com­ing back to Egypt in light of the matches of theWorld Cup this sum­mer.

I BE­LIEVE THAT TRAIN­ING WILL BE ABLE TO FIX THESE IS­SUES

El­hamy El-Zayyat

Abla Ab­dul­latif

Amr Sedky

Has­san Aziz

Adel Rady

Haitham Nas­sar

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