Ernesto Preatoni, owner of Domina Coral Bay Resort and one of the leading foreign investors in Sharm El-Sheikh, has embarked on a new initiative to revive Italian tourism. Preatoni had previously played a prominent role in promoting the resort city, annually bringing nearly half a million Italian tourists, which has now dropped to only 11,000.
Today, “the inventor of Sharm El-Sheikh”, as they call him in Italy, came with a promising initiative that would see tourists return to the city on the verge of becoming deserted. He intends to organise eight flights, carrying about 180 different kinds of visitors, including tourists, investors, journalists, press, and politicians, to spend an entire week in Sharm El-Sheikh─at his own expense. The first trip will be on 2 October and the last trip on 28 November, making it the biggest privately funded promotion campaign in the history of Sharm El-Sheikh.
Preatoni described his campaign saying: “Our aim is not to only target regular tourists, but to attract the rich.” He explained that the “initiative aims to invite wealthy Italians who are known for their love of travel. Preatoni aims to organise airline trips directly from the cities of Nablus and Bari to Sharm El-Sheikh.”
The initiative was welcomed by Egypt as General Khaled Fouda, the governor of South Sinai, met Preatoni and expressed that he will work on overcoming any obstacles to such an initiative, as it is considered a lifeline for Sharm El-Sheikh. Minister of Civil Aviation Fathy Sherif stated that the campaign contributes to restoring the tourism influx, and called on EgyptAir to support it by offering the necessary facilitations in Sharm El-Sheikh. The Tourism Ministry also stated that they would lobby EgyptAir for discounted flight tickets.
The lives of thousands of workers in Sharm El-Sheikh and millions of Egyptians might change if Preatoni’s initiative succeeds, as it could herald an industry-wide recovery. Preatoni also announced he would pump new investments that would exceed $1bn after a successful completion.
The family of Giulio Regeni─an Italian PhD student who was found tortured and killed on a highway in Egypt─has pressured the Italian government to not normalise relations with Egypt after three Egyptian intelligence officials and officers independently told Reuters that the police had taken Regeni into custody at some point before he died.
“I do not understand the loud voices asking to ban traveling from Italy to Sharm El-Sheikh following the death of young Regeni,” Preatoni stated, adding his condolences for the Italian student who was documenting trade union abuses, stating that “crimes will never stop in this world as well as life. Yes, I hope the killers will be brought to justice, but that crime should not prevent us from continuing our work and enjoying living.”