Tourism numbers have fallen dramatically since April 2020, on the back of the worldwide travel restrictions brought about by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and may remain low until the end of the year.
Because of the halt in tourism and global travel, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board should reallocate substantial amounts of finance to marketing and promotion campaigns, according to Mohamed Kaoud, President of Tourism and Aviation Committee at the Egyptian Junior Business Association (EJB).
Talking to Daily News Egypt, Kaoud noted that this shift in financing would mean a shift in focus to domestic tourism, with the financing used to drive local demand.
Kaoud added that with the return of international flights on 1 July, Egypt Air conducted several flights in the first 15 days. A total of 548 international flights carrying 61,382 passengers took place, alongside 48 domestic flights carrying 4,897 passengers, with the figures representing 60% of airplane occupancy.
He mentioned that the global tourism sector is facing an existential crisis that has significantly affected the industry. With the coronavirus pandemic ongoing and flights still not at their pre-pandemic levels, the current period remains an uncertain and unsettling time for all travel and tourism stakeholders.
“As a result, new norms for travel, tourism and hospitality have prevailed and others will prevail,” Kaoud said, “Though governments, airlines, airports, hotels, transportation, restaurants and many others around the world have applied new standard operating procedures and health regulations to cope with the COVID-19 Crisis, there are still huge inconsistencies causing market turbulence and instability.”
He revealed that different governments, tourism boards, travel agency associations, totels associations and travel and tourism councils worldwide have to introduce more consistent travel rules. This includes setting a range of coronavirus-specific precautions and evaluation criteria of which countries are safe or high risk destinations.
“Travellers and travel agencies have had to deal with a much confusion due to the different forms and rules each country imposed, as each EU country, for example, is acting differently with limitations to its borders even though they are all part of the Schengen Zone,” Kaoud said, “Unnecessary and inconsistent border constraints are restricting travellers and suppressing the resurgence of the travel and tourism sector.”
He added that organisation is essential to revive destinations and global tourism, which can act as a catalyst for the global economic recovery.
“WTTC [World Travel and Tourism Council] research shows that for every 2.7% increase in travellers, there would be one million jobs in the tourism sector recovered or generated,” Kaoud said. “The research mentions that if governments work together with the right coordinated measures, it can stimulate an increase in travel by as much as 27%, and even recreate a massive 10 million jobs in travel and tourism.”
He also said that the WTTC has warned that the fragile recovery might stutter and slowdown if European governments do not undertake major efforts to align their policies. If they do not undertake this scope of work, it could put as many as 16 million jobs in the travel and tourism sector at risk.
“As a result, it is very important that Egypt works harder with each EU government to overcome this challenge and stimulate the tourism sector to save jobs and increase its foreign currency,” Kaoud said.
He noted that, on 21 July, Egypt’s Ministry of Health announced that the Red Sea and South Sinai Governorates recorded zero cases within the previous 24 hour period for the first time since February 2020.
“During these times, and as part of efforts to ease the impact [of the coronavirus], we must focus on staycations and outline plans to boost local demand as the pandemic has caused travel restrictions to Egypt and a lot of other countries,” he asserted.
Kaoud said that, whereas Egyptians had previously spend billions in local currency on overseas tourism and pilgrimages, this must now be redirected on staycations at hotels and tourist attractions inside the country. This, in turn, would be of great benefit to all stakeholders, and help reduce the financial hole in the pockets of Egypt’s tourism establishments and companies.
He added that more job losses will happen in the coming months due to the severe impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the international travel. It is not sustainable for Egypt’s government to keep supporting a business model that may no longer be available, nor one that is showing any signs of a return to its pre-pandemic level within the next year.
“We need to ensure that we save different stakeholders through legislative laws that protect both them and supply chains, including hotels, travel agencies, restaurants, attractions, airlines, cruises, guides, and transportation companies,” Kaoud said, “Eliminating any of those stakeholders will lead to more unemployment and losses.”
“We, at the EJB, together with the other private sector stakeholders, need to seek new markets and niche offerings,” Kaoud said. “Demand for mass market tourism is unlikely to pick up in the near future and hence we need collectively, with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Ministry of Aviation, to open those new markets.”
He noted that charter flights from Eastern Europe need to be increased and more importantly have scheduled flights from the destinations that have potential and have Egypt in their Green Zone. Besides this, Egypt Air is flying to several African countries which also have significant potential with more relaxed visa regulations for Egyptian nationals.
It is a full collaboration between the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Ministry of Aviation, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with the private sector. This collaboration has the potential to boost the country’s tourism industry and put it back on track to achieve higher numbers, Kaoud said.