Over the past two weeks, Coronavirus outbreak caused a state of terror in the world, especially in Europe. China Association of Travel Services announced that all tours, including international ones, will be suspended starting Monday. Meanwhile, domestic groups and packaged tours were stopped last Friday.
The updates raised concerns over the future of Egypt’s tourism sector, especially as former Minister of Tourism Rania Al-Mashat told Daily News Egypt previously that her ministry aimed to diversify its revenue streams and increase the sector’s resilience by attracting new markets, notably Asia.
She explained that this could be achieved through increasing promotional efforts in new source markets, including Asia (particularly China), East Europe (specifically Ukraine), and Latin America.
Earlier this year, Chairperson of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board Ahmed Youssef told Daily News Egypt that the markets which Egypt needs to focus on in 2020 include China, Japan, the US, in addition to Latin America and East Europe.
“In total, there are 17 air flights between China and Egypt, Meanwhile, Egypt receives on average 300,000 Chinese tourists per year,” former head of Egypt’s Federation of Tourism Chambers Elhamy El-Zayat told Daily News Egypt on Monday.
He explained further that not all 17 flights carry just Chinese tourists, but a mix of nationalities, mentioning that only 60% of the passengers on the flights were not tourists.
El-Zayat thinks that the current impact of the Corona virus will be little, that the fears of the disease spreading and becoming an international epidemic, especially in Australia, America, and Europe, will have very little impact on Egypt.
Disagreeing with El-Zayat, chairperson of the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry’s committee for marketing cultural tourism in Upper Egypt, Mohamed Osman, thinks that the virus will have a great impact on Egypt`s tourism sector, specifically Chinese tourist flows in Luxor and Aswan. He explained that Chinese tourism inflow represents between 10%, and 12% of the total tourism flow to Egypt.
“We were expecting a promising tourism season in terms of the Chinese market, and were forecasting Egypt to receive 250,000 Chinese tourists by end of 2020, up from only 230,000 in 2019. Especially since Egypt made a lot of effort to attract more Chinese tourists,” Mohamed Osman added.
He added that these efforts include introducing Chinese food in Egyptian menus, increasing the number of tourist guides who speak Chinese, and increasing the number signs written in Chinese.
It’s known that Chinese tourists prefer coming to Egypt to enjoy the culture more so than the beach.
Chairperson of the Egyptian Hotel Association in Red Sea, Alaa Akel, told DNE that the current impact of the Corona Virus will be little in the Red Sea, but he also fears the further spreading of the virus.
However, in the end, all pundits agreed that they fear the virus might spread to epidemic proportions, like what they witnessed during the SARS epidemic.
The number of Chinese tourists abroad has almost increased tenfold since 2003, the year of the outbreak of SARS, a previous coronavirus, noted the research firm Capital Economics.
“Spending by Chinese visitors now represents a substantial share of GDP in certain Asian territories and states, notably Hong Kong, Cambodia, Thailand, and Singapore,” according to Capital Economics.
In 2003, the SARS epidemic in Asia had reduced the number of tourists from the country by around a third. If a similar plunge occurs this year, “it would cut between 1.5 and 2 percentage points of GDP of the most vulnerable countries,” stated Capital Economics.