The joint tourism archaeological committee prepared archaeological places and paths of the project that target to put the Holy Family monuments on the international tourism map, in order to welcome visitors and tourist influxes very soon.
The chairperson of the Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA), Hisham El Demeiri, said that development works at eight places along the path of the Holy Family out of 32 sites are completed.
The eight places are distributed over four governorates, namely Minya, Assiut, Alexandria, and Cairo. He added that the Ministry of Tourism has already begun to promote the path of the Holy Family’s journey through notifying tourist companies to add the path of the Holy Family to its tourist programmes.
El Demeiri expected the inclusion of the path of the Holy Family’s journey in the international tourism map to contribute to increase tourism traffic to Egypt.
An official at the Ministry of Tourism said that the path of the Holy Family is capable of attracting one million tourists at least each year; therefore the ministry is promoting it in European countries in the current period.
He pointed out that the strategy of the Ministry of Tourism during the recent period focuses on adding new tourism products to strengthen the Egyptian tourist destination, as well as tourism of antiquities, beaches, and safaris.
For his part, Waad Allah Abu El Ella, head of the projects sector at the Ministry of Antiquities, said that the joint tourism archaeological committee is about to complete preparations of the Tree of the Virgin in Matariya, as well as Gabal El Teir Monastery in Minya.
He added that the development of the archaeological site costs a lot of money in terms of overseeing and development works required for preparing the path of the Holy Family.
The Ministry of Tourism is in charge of financing all development works at the sites.
The committee, in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, completed the work of the first phase of the project.
The committee depended on the path specified by the Orthodox Church and approved by Pope Tawadros II.
The first phase included the Church of St. Sergius and its surrounding area in old Cairo, the monasteries of Wadi El-Natrun in Beheira governorate, the Tree of the Virgin in Matariya, Gabal El Teir Monastery in Minya, and all archaeological installations in Assiut.
The journey will start from the old Cairo area that was known as Babylon Fortress, where the Holy Family lived in a cave that lies in the Church of St. Sergius.
The journey will include the Hanging Church and will then head to Maadi to visit Virgin Mary’s Church in Southern Cairo, moving to Wadi El Natrun on the western side of the Nile River, where the largest number of monasteries and churches are located. The area includes Monastery of Saint Pishoy, the Syrian Monastery, and Paromeos Monastery.
The trip will then lead to Gabal El Teir Monastery and to the Muharraq Monastery in Assiut, where the Holy Family spent six months in its cave.
The final destination will include Mount Dronka, where there is an old cave in the mountain where the Holy Family stayed before their return trip.
The inbound tourist traffic to Egypt declined in 2016 to 5.3 million tourists, compared to 9.3 million tourists in 2015, a decline of 40% due to the suspension of the Russian flights in October 2015 and also the British flights to Sharm El-Sheikh.
An official at the Ministry of Tourism said that the ministry is seeking to exploit Pope Francis’ visit to Egypt by increasing the tourism traffic, especially in the Delta, Cairo, and the Upper Egyptian governorates.
Cultural tourism to Egypt has significantly diminished during the past seven years, representing 3% of total incoming tourism. The official explained that when it increases, the tourism income will grow in Egypt by the end of this year.
The spending rate of archaeological tourists is roughly $100 to $200 per night, compared to the rate of beach tourists, which is roughly $60 per night.
Adel Zaki, chairperson of Itta Tours, said that archaeological tourism in Luxor and Aswan has declined significantly compared to the period before January 2011.
He explained that the cultural tourist wants to know the Egyptian civilisation and culture, so they walk around the streets and spend money on taxi drivers, fruits sellers, and shops, something which makes citizens understand the importance of the tourism sector.