On the 23rd of October, 2023, Egypt announced its ambitious objective to kick start its tourism to a bigger feat, Egypt hopes to attract an annual influx of 30 million tourists by the year 2028. This announcement followed a meeting led by the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Mr. Ahmed Issa, during which Egypt’s comprehensive strategies and initiatives aimed at realizing this target were presented and discussed.
The new plan to boost the tourism industry, which has been hit hard by COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, involves some key steps. They’re going to almost double the number of hotel rooms, increase the number of seats on planes, invest in advertising, and work on making the experience better for visitors. Mr Issa at a talk at the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt on Monday said:
“We need just 300,000 rooms, $30 billion of investments in rooms, and probably similar amounts of investments in customer experiences. Spread the word, and it is a great industry to invest in,”
Minister Issa underscored the importance of fostering effective partnerships between the Ministry and international airline companies. This collaboration aims to address industry concerns and increase the annual capacity of airline seats serving visitors to Egypt.
In 2020, Egypt witnessed a significant drop in tourism numbers, with arrivals falling to 3.7 million, down from around 13 million in 2019. The sector experienced a partial recovery in 2021, with approximately 8 million visitors. Though complete statistics for the entire year 2022 are not yet available, the first half of the year saw 5 million tourists arriving in Egypt.
Egypt’s tourism revenue, a crucial source of foreign currency, declined to $4 billion in 2020, compared to about $13 billion in 2019, before rebounding to $9 billion in 2021. This sector holds even greater significance as Egypt grapples with an economic crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approximately a year ago. In addition to the losses in tourism income, the conflict has led to significant capital outflows, increased costs for food imports, and soaring inflation.
As part of a condition for a $3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, Egypt has committed to transitioning to a flexible exchange rate system, resulting in a significant depreciation of the Egyptian pound against the US dollar over the past year.
Mr. Issa, who assumed his role in August during a cabinet reshuffle, envisions the potential for tourism growth driven by the private sector, even in the face of economic challenges. In contrast to his predecessor, Khaled El Enany, who came from an Egyptology and academic background, Mr. Issa brings extensive experience from his 25-year career at the Egyptian lender Commercial International Bank, where he held significant positions, including chief financial officer and chief executive of retail banking.
“I have built a career on problem-solving,” Mr. Issa remarked. “I typically ask myself whether it’s a supply-side issue or a demand-side challenge.”
Despite Egypt’s wealth of assets, boasting 2,000 archaeological sites and six UNESCO World Heritage sites, including iconic attractions like the Pyramids of Giza, the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, and the temples of Aswan, the country has historically received less than 1 percent of the world’s total tourism. In 2019, when over 1.4 billion tourists traveled globally, only a fraction chose Egypt as their destination, with Europe being a more favored choice for nearly half of these travelers.
Recent findings from the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) have illuminated positive developments in the tourism sector. During the fiscal year 2022/2023, Egypt’s tourism revenues experienced a noteworthy growth of 26.8 percent, reaching $13.6 billion, compared to $10.7 billion in the preceding fiscal year (2021/2022).
The report also highlighted a 35.6 percent rise in the number of inbound tourists, totaling approximately 13.9 million visitors. Furthermore, the number of nights spent by tourists in Egypt increased by 27.6 percent, reaching a record 146.1 million nights during the fiscal year 2022/2023.
As part of the Ministry’s ongoing digital transformation efforts, electronic visas are now accessible to citizens of 78 nationalities, with an additional 20 nationalities set to be included in the coming weeks, according to Mr. Issa.
Furthermore, Egypt offers visa-on-arrival privileges to travelers from approximately 180 nationalities, provided they possess a valid visa from countries such as the UK, US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, or Schengen member nations in their passports.
In December, a notable milestone was achieved when 1.7 million electronic tickets out of 2 million total visitors were issued for entry to the country’s archaeological sites and museums. This reflects a significant step toward streamlining the visitor experience.
Over the next two to three years, the Ministry will focus on measuring and enhancing its performance in elevating the overall visitor experience, ushering in an era of improved tourism services.
“We are going to ensure that [tourism] in Egypt continues to grow by 25 percent to 30 percent per annum over the coming five years until we reach 30 million tourists by 2028, maximum by 2030, God willing.”