The Tourism Development Authority (TDA) is in need of a boost amid tough political and economic circumstances that have plagued the country since the 25 January Revolution, tourism officials said.
“It is the goose that lays golden eggs,” said Ilhamy Zayat, head of the Egyptian Tourism Federation (ETF), of the authority, which injects billions of dollars into the state’s coffers.
The TDA promotes Egypt’s tourism programmes and services in countries exporting tourism to Egypt, according to Zayat.
The Egyptian official said that the authority needs to undergo a major restructuring in the coming period.
The North African country’s tourism revenues declined to $5.9bn in 2013, compared to $10bn in 2012 and $8.8bn in 2011. Revenues reached their peak in 2010, standing at $12.5bn, according to data released by the Ministry of Tourism.
The tourism industry employs approximately 3.5 million workers directly and indirectly, and accounts for 11.3% of the country’s GDP, according to Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou.
“One unit at the Egyptian Tourism Federation provides three job opportunities,” Zayat said. She added that the authority will play a major role invigorating the ailing economy in the coming period by increasing tourist numbers to Egypt.
Magdy Selim, head of the Domestic Tourism Department at the TDA, said they are organising parties in many tourist attractions in the coming period to increase occupancy rates. He added that domestic tourism has given a boost to the tourism industry over the last three and a half years.
The authority has promoted many tourism programmes for Egyptians in Luxor and Aswan, according to Selim.
“Yet, some tourism personnel working for the private sector complain that the authority’s activities are confined to particular cities,” said an official at the Tourism Development Authority.
The anonymous official said the authority has not promoted Egypt’s tourist destinations abroad over the past few months and focuses on the Red Sea resorts of Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh. “The TDA lends a blind eye to the other cities,” he added.
The official, who owns a group of hotels in the Red Sea and South Sinai, said the air route launched by the Ministry of Tourism between Cairo and Taba was stopped. The cancellation came due to low demand and declining promotion efforts by the authority, with the official adding: “The authority employs civil servants, not professionals.”
Zayat requested the formation of a private sector committee to supervise TDA promotion of activities inside and outside Egypt.
“The committee members will not find a conflict of interest between running the committee and managing their own businesses. On the contrary, there will be competition between the committee members to win tourists back for Egypt,” Zayat said.
The 2013 Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda squares and their subsequent dispersals further affected tourism levels to Egypt. Since then, Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou has played a major role in pushing Western and European countries to lift their travel warnings for Egypt’s tourist attractions.
“The TDA did not play a role in this,” the Tourism Development Authority official said.
“Zaazou was very active while the TDA remained in a state of shock due to deteriorating conditions in the tourism sector over the last year,” he added.
The TDA did not shut down its 17 unproductive offices abroad until July 2014 claimed the official.
According to the anonymous official, the TDA’s decision to close three offices in Japan, Switzerland and Canada was delayed for over seven months.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, tourist influx to Egypt sank by 70% in September last year, representing its biggest fall in decades.
“The TDA chief should have sent a report informing the Minister of Tourism that the authority’s foreign offices were completely useless and all officials at the authority and those working in the Japan, Switzerland and Canada offices should be held accountable,” he added.
“Tourist influx from the three countries did not surpass 300,000 last year,” the official said, adding that officials at those offices and the TDA did not report the minister.
“There is favouritism and negligence within the authority. The foreign offices should not form luxury locations for the authority’s employees in light of hard economic conditions,” he added.
Adel Zaki, head of the Foreign Ministry Committee at the Egyptian Travel Agents Association, said that the offices are still using old marketing techniques. He added that 24 European companies became bankrupt as a result of using such techniques.
Zaki called upon officials at the TDA and the ministry to move faster to use modern communications methods, including social media and search engines instead of traditional advertisements. “This method saves time and expenses,” he added.
The budget for tourism promotion stands at $40mn annually, a figure which has remained since the 25 January Revolution, Zaki said. He added that foreign companies are far more effective than Egyptian offices in some markets.