Recently, Egypt is achieving remarkable progress in attracting more tourists. It managed to organise the CAF in a professional and civilised way that dazzled the entire world.
Countless effort is being exerted to increase the ratio of tourism toward Egypt through different state channels, including parliament, with the aim of transferring the right image of the country and correcting many erroneous stereotypes of Egypt in foreign societies in the wake of political instability that popped up during the one year rule of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.
With the aim of getting the new updates on tourism and plans to improve touristic destinations in Egypt, Daily News Egypt sat down with former head of the parliament’s civil and tourism committee and member of the parliament, Sahar Talaat Mostafa, who previously suggested establishing a ministerial group which includes the tourism, antiques, civil aviation, and transportation ministries. The group would work with the aims of improving the tourism sector in Egypt as well as affording all tourists’ demands in the country.
Recently, a delegation from the Russian Federal Council paid a visit to Egypt. You, as the president of the Russian-Egyptian Parliamentary Friendship Group, and the Chairperson of the Egyptian-Russian Business Council, were the first to receive them. What happened during these meetings?
Of course, I met with members of the delegation of the Russian Federal Council who were on a visit to Egypt this July, and we engaged in an extensive meeting at the House of Representatives. The meeting witnessed a number of discussions and important results, including the discussion on resuming flights to Egypt to increase the flow of tourists.
The meeting also dealt with the development of cultural cooperation, especially with regard to the expansion of establishing art academies. The Russian side supported us to establish the first art academy in the Haram district 60 years ago. Currently, there is a branch for an Art Academy that is being established in the Sixth of October city, and to complete this academy I called them to afford more support in establishing it among other proposals that I saw as an occasion to discuss and implement during the joint cultural year between Egypt and Russia and in line with the decision of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and President Putin that 2020 is the year of humanity between the two countries.
How will Egypt benefit from the Russian-African summit scheduled next October?
Egypt is the gateway to Africa, and the summit comes while Egypt is heading the African Union.
It is expected to open the door to further economic cooperation between Russia and Africa, as well as develop the political, economic, and cultural fields. It is planned, as I am aware, to discuss a wide range of international issues, including the fight against new threats, and the promotion of regional stability.
In the same context, your visit to Russia recently within the parliamentary delegation has had important results, Can you please inform us more about it?
The visit of the Egyptian Parliamentary delegation to Russia headed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives Ali Abdel Al-Aal was very important. The reception of the Russian side to us was an expression of their interest in Egypt. During the visit, we participated in the second international forum on parliamentary development and the Russian, African Parliamentary Conference. We had important meetings in this regard, among them the Head of the Russian Federal Federation Council and the Head of Russia’s State Duma. On the personal level, I met the group of friends of Egypt in the Federal Federation of Russia. We also discussed all aspects of cooperation between the two sides in the common areas and how to benefit from the most important event of the Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for October, in addition to the discussion of applying the “Twin Towns” system between Egypt and Russia and the importance of cooperation between the Egyptian Parliament and its Russian counterpart in organising the joint legislation agenda.
How does the State’s external and domestic efforts affect the flow of tourism to Egypt?
I believe that the huge number of foreign visits of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, directly affected our relations with the countries of the world, and played a major role in re-branding Egypt as an appropriate destination. The political leadership has a great interest in the tourism file in Egypt. The president does not leave an opportunity to provide support to the tourism sector, this was very clear through his meetings with number of international leaders such as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which had a significant impact on the increase in the volume of tourism. The Egyptian Parliament has also played a major role by providing all forms of legislative support with new laws that serve the sector, in addition to the great efforts of the ministers of antiquities, tourism and all relevant state bodies, which also had a clear role in restoring security which is the most important message to the world: to come to Egypt.
Do you think that Egypt’s tourism can target new touristic destinations?
Yes, Egypt is a diverse and rich country with many tourist products that can be promoted in various markets exporting tourism. We have in Egypt what is not found in any country in the world, we have wonderful monuments, culture, civilisation, beaches, entertainment, and shopping. We have entered into deals with various tourist destinations such as East Asia, in addition to the agreement between President Al-Sisi, the president of Cyprus and the Greek President to coordinate tourist activity among the three countries, which we discussed in one of our parliamentary visits to Cyprus.
Does Egypt need to increase hotel capacity now or to add international luxury projects like Dubai?
There are enough hotel rooms in the traditional tourist destinations, but there are places of course that need new tourist rooms like Alamein, and I assure you that Egypt is always able to meet the demand for tourist destination, what we really need is world-class entertainment projects, being one of the most important attractions and promotors of tourism, so that the tourist is not confined to his room.
“Accessible tourism” is one of the files that have become strongly on the table of the World Tourism Organization, can Egypt get a fair share of them?
It is certainly a very important file especially that it has become a global trend and one of the factors affecting the tourist’s decision, especially in the case of a family member with special needs, and it became on the list of interest of the government and the private sector tourism. This segment of tourists have the right to access services that help them to live a distinct tourist experience, highly qualified tour guides, service providers, and hotels, as well as tourist facilities in a technical format that take into account that segment of tourists, which account for 20% of the volume of global tourism. There are also a large number of people who have reached the age of retirement and are interested in foreign visits. I sat with a great number of them, especially from the German market, but they demand special attention from the beginning of their arrival at the airport until they leave the country.
Do we have the ability to experience a loss in exchange for marketing Egyptian tourism externally?
First, marketing should be done on a scientific basis, meaning that the market is studied before the decision is made. This decision is made through representatives of the private sector such as the Federation of Chambers of Tourism, the Chamber of Tourism Companies and the administrative authority represented by the Tourism Promotion Authority in addition to the company or the corporate alliance responsible for promoting the tourist destination. Secondly, in the event of choosing a market or a group of markets to start promoting for the tourist destination, it is necessary to determine the nature of this market, and to consider all the studies related to it in terms of the trends of the prospective tourist, such as do they prefer cultural tourism or shopping? Are these tourists coming alone or with their families? Some markets, for example, women are the most influential in deciding the destination of the trip, and others children are the basis, and some markets the only source of young tourists prefer adventure tourism. Therefore, there is no risk or loss, as long as there is institutional work based on market studies. It is not logical that Egypt, for example, will conduct marketing and promotion campaigns in some markets that will impose a travel ban on our country.
In the context of the archaeology file, some Egyptian artifacts have recently appeared in a number of countries in the world, such as the head of
Tutankhamun, which was exhibited in London. What can we do to recover these pieces to Egypt?
First of all, we must make it clear that the statue is the head of the god Amun and bears the features of the young king Tutankhamun. Second, the Egyptian government has taken a series of measures from the beginning represented by the ministries of foreign affairs, antiquities and the Attorney-General, moreover the British government was informed that it is necessary to stop the auction. In spite of that, the auction was held and the statue was sold. The Egyptian government held an emergency meeting to discuss the matter and legally moved toward suspending the exit of the statue in case it moved to any other country. In my opinion, legal and criminal prosecution is particularly important because the auction hall did not provide any proof of ownership and only made a brief statement that did not provide any information with evidence.
I call on UNESCO to intervene to stop what I consider to be a “theft” of Egyptian identity. I call on lovers of civilisation and soft forces around the world to pressure the public to stop such crimes. The world should know that a part of the antiquities trade money may go to the financing of terrorism. The message that I want to convey to the world in this context is that Egypt does not need to prove that its civilisation which is known to the whole world, is not for sale.
What about the pyramids development project and the expected results?
I want to clarify at the beginning that the project of developing the pyramid is a great dream for me, you can say that I am associated with a spiritual connection to all our monuments, we worked a lot in the tourism committee of the parliament during my presidency in collaboration with the ministry of antiquities and concerned parties to achieve a civilised image of the pyramids. Especially as it carries an important aspect of our Egyptian identity. We, as members of the parliament, organised a number of field visits to discuss developments and overcome any obstacles facing the project.
How will the Grand Egyptian Museum change tourists’ experience in Egypt?
What I want to say about this project in short, that the project of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) is highly important, it tells the story of Egyptian civilisation based on the latest technological methods, and provides a precise picture of the civilisation and history of Egypt. The project is a great opportunity for Egypt to increase the rate of incoming cultural tourism. Here I would like to mention the great effort exerted by the ministry of antiquities and the Armed Forces Engineering Authority in this regard, as well as hundreds of workers who laboured day and night without days off. I expect that the grand museum will be the jewel of Egypt for the world. It is planned to be linked with the pyramids. I also expect that the grand opening of the museum will be another spectacle to dazzle the world with the power of Egypt and its ability to organise.
Before the start of the African Nations Cup, you called on the state to promote Egyptian monuments during the events… Did this happen?
Certainly, the African Nations Cup is an important opportunity to promote Egyptian tourism in general, especially in the presence of important Icons for African and international media, and I think that Egypt was able to dazzle the whole world in less than a quarter of an hour during the organisation ceremony and send a clear message that Egypt is a strong and safe state that is able to regulate what is greater than that, but as for what I demanded, there was indeed a response from the Minister of Antiquities, Khalid Al-Anani. Moreover, many renowned guests appeared in their social media while they were in the events of the cup, this contributed very well in promoting for tourism in Egypt.
What is your interest in promoting the ‘Egyptian identity’ in many of the posts you write on your official Facebook page?
Let me talk about this in a detailed way because I decided to put it at the top of my interests. I am interested in highlighting the importance of the Egyptian identity because it enjoys the privacy and uniqueness that has been exposed for nearly five decades to the attempts of deliberate sabotage, and pasting strange habits that came into Egyptian society without taking into account the privacy of the Egyptian personality, beside the waves of ignorance ,spreading rumours and lies about Egypt, its history, culture and identity need a comprehensive confrontation of facts and evidence in order to protect the younger generations so as not to be surprised by the day when we have a generation that doubts its past and does not know anything about its history.
I notice great interest in this matter, is there a project adopted by you in this context during the coming period?
There will be an important project in that context, and I will study carefully with a specialised team, but it will be officially announced in due course.
What is your feedback on the first test flight that headed to the New Administrative Capital’s airport?
I saw a dream turning into reality. In just 12 months, we have a world-class airport, a parking area for 400 cars, 20 buses, 45 buildings, and a 50-metre air observation tower in the New Administrative Capital. Today, we can say that the New Administrative Capital has been linked to all countries of the world and in my view that this scene opens wide horizons for investment and tourism and is a new achievement for the Egyptian state.