Ahmed El-Khadem, former chairman of the Tourism Activation Authority (TAA), the Ministry of Tourism’s marketing arm, admits the terrorist bombings will negatively affect the reservations rate for the upcoming winter season.
El-Khadem believes the TAA must move fast according to a well studied method in the major markets exporting tourism to Egypt, on top of which are the European and Arab markets. By acting fast, they would be able to reduce the crisis in no more than three months.
According to the TAA’s former chairman, this year is going to be an extension to the sector’s crisis that has continued for the past four years.
First, you mentioned that the TAA has to move fast – what did you mean by that?
Speedy, calculated actions are built on three factors other than the factor of speed of taking such actions. The first of these factors is the necessity of explaining the true size of the accident, so as to avoid dramatising and exaggeration that negatively affects Egyptian tourism and reservation rates for the winter season. This role is played by the Information Services Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by issuing a statement about the terrorist bombings and sending it to the Ministry of Tourism, which in turn sends it to its offices abroad.
Then the Ministry of Tourism must hold an intensive meeting through what is known as the crisis room. The ministry should send the statement to its offices in the markets exporting tourism to Egypt, as there are about 11 offices, most of which in the European market. This is in addition to receiving reports and following up on reaction in markets and conduct marketing according to them. The third factor depends on the Tourism Activation Authority, to request from the offices abroad to spread the statement in major markets and audio and visual media, in addition to sending it to major tourism companies that organise trips to Egypt.
Do you think these steps were followed in this manner?
I do not think so, responses are really slow. However, there is still time for action and we should not delay it so the effects of the crisis wouldn’t extend to the upcoming winter season.
What are the results on not acting quickly?
There will be a big decline in reservation rates for the winter season and for the tourism flow to Egypt all year long. Also, this year would be an extension for the crises suffered by the sector for the past four years.
How do you see the current marketing model of tourism resorts?
Tourism has been living in a crisis for four years. There are terrorist bombings, not only in Egypt, but all over the world, and no country is safe from the threat of terrorism. But there is a string of light in the Egyptian case, as the tourist areas on the coasts of the Red Sea, whether in Sinai or in the Red Sea governorate, are very safe. This case makes it a must for the Ministry of Tourism to follow a separate marketing model for every governorate, which would eliminate the negative impact of the crisis of the last bombings in no more than three months.
Do you believe that this kind of marketing is capable of resolving the crisis?
Yes, indeed it is, but on the condition of applying the three factors I have mentioned earlier, which we actually did after the terrorist bombings in Luxor in the ’90s. I believe there is a missing link in the marketing; it is promotion on the governorate level.
Some believe that the TAA has to put in place incentives to foreign trip organisers to avoid the crisis, what do you think of this?
If we put incentives without carefully and quickly moving as per the three axes and separate marketing, it will not be useful. Integration within the marketing framework is very important. I believe that we should offer incentives as per each market status, depending on the market flow following the crisis. This would avoid waste of money and the state’s resources for which we are in dire need right now. We may offer incentives to the Italian market after the Italian consulate explosion in Cairo.
Thus, the tourism agencies in Italy have to exert intensified efforts, whether through being present in the tourist events or meetings with trip organisers in the market. The agency has to organise an introductory trip to the major tourism agencies in Italy and the main media to visit Egypt next month, in order to know the real situation and focus on the positive sides. All of this will help avoid the negative impacts of explosions.
What is the incentives method that TAA could use to attract tourist to Egypt?
The effective method would be to offer incentives through charter flights to trips coming to Egypt. However, it should not be for too long because the government is in crisis and needs to rationalise expenditures.
Minister of Tourism Khaled Ramy stated that the ministry will re-study incentives on charter flights by the end of October. How, in your opinion, can you make both decisions compatible?
I strongly support the minister’s decision for the necessity to revise rules on incentive programmes given to charter flights, especially after it turned to unnecessary incentives. The incentives system aims at supporting companies so as not to make losses. However, it has recently been applied unnecessarily. Incentives have to be carefully studied and be conditionally given to specific areas which suffer tourism recession, for example, Luxor, Aswan, or Taba.
For the past eight months, the Russian market has been witnessing the rouble crisis, how do you see Russian flow now?
The decline in the rouble exchange rate against the dollar limited tourists’ ability to visit Egypt. Nonetheless, there has been great improvement in the exchange rate of the currency, so tourism from Russia will not affect Egypt in the current period. On the contrary, Russia will be on top of the tourist flow to Egypt this year too.
Do you believe that the Ministry of Tourism was right not to interfere in incentives to Russian trip organisers during the rouble crisis?
Indeed, the ministry was absolutely right to take such action. The government must not interfere in these crises, because foreign currencies’ exchange rates are in constant rise and decline. This means that the Egyptian tourism would have to be linked to this. Some foreign organisers also want to take advantage of these declines in favour of the Egyptian tourism, and officials are well aware of this.
What do you think of next winter’s reservations in light of these events?
I believe there will be a slowdown in reservation rates for the next season, as the recent explosions will affect flow to Egypt. However, the ministry has to reduce the crisis in no more than two months.
The ministry stated that there is an increase of 20% in reservations compared to the past winter season, what do you think of this?
Let me tell you that these estimations are highly related to the political situation, in addition to flights to Egypt.
What are your expectations regarding flow to Egypt and the total tourism income by the end of this year?
I expect numbers will be the same as last year at 10 million tourists, and I hope we move quickly to resolve the crisis. I believe that income will not exceed $6bn.
Why do you expect a $1.3bn in tourism income?
There is a 15% decline in tourist services prices in Egypt this year, and it will be the reason for this decline in income.