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9 Feb, 2011

Egypt’s Prescient Tourism Slogan: “Where It All Begins”

Egypt’s tourism campaign marketing slogan may turn out to be more prescient than the tourism industry had bargained for.

Unveiled for the first time at the World Travel Market in London in November 2009, the slogan “Egypt — Where It All Begins,” was intended to highlight the North African country’s historic status as a cradle of civilisations. Today, it could take on a broader political significance if the public revolt against the leadership spreads to other Middle East countries.

The launchpad for a worldwide rebranding campaign, the slogan and its accompanying new logo was emblazoned on dozens of London’s red double-decker buses and the London underground. The campaign was also carried out in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, and across 26 markets in Europe, the United States, the Near and Far East and Australia.

Last year, the Egyptian tourism authority made a high-profile move into Asia by becoming the partner country for ITB Asia 2010, one of Asia’s rapidly-emerging trade shows. It also signed up to be the official partner country for the 2012 ITB Berlin where it was planning a three-fold increase in the size of its display area, from 588 square metres to 1,960 square metres.

Like Thailand’s political crisis last April-May, the political standoff in Egypt has had a significant impact on its tourism industry.

In 2010, Egypt recorded 15 million visitors, about the same as Thailand. About one million tourists are reported to have fled Egypt, in addition to thousands of expatriates, students and others who have been repatriated.

The recent shutdown of the Internet services caused major disruption for the Egyptian travel industry, especially airlines. It was not until 3 February that Egyptair could announce the reopening of its local offices and resumption of normal services at its various airport offices, and re-establishment of its booking engine at the www.egyptair.com website.

The airline also announced that it will waive cancellation and changes fees for confirmed tickets booked for travel from January 25 until February 28, plus the eligibility to refund of any unused portion of the ticket.

The first batch of crisis communications messages from the Egyptian travel industry began flowing only on February 5, after the relatively peaceful “Day of Departure” on Friday.

An email dispatch from Hussein Mattar, Managing Director, Travel House Egypt, said, “Already the good news are continuing to flow from Egypt; army the favorite big and strong authority is controlling the whole country! Again we all breathe the safety.

“Huge efforts over the last two days between officials and non officials to get an end to the nightmare lasted for 13 days till now.

“People from all walks of life came out on the last Thursday & Friday to help keeping the security and to cleanup the streets & help with the recovery in cooperation with the army and in a very civilized way.

“Today, Saturday many services and businesses have re-commenced operations with others announcing opening dates over the next few days; expecting that banks will start to work tomorrow; Sunday while most of the ATM machines are working in a good way everywhere.

“Streets and lanes are also open to traffic. Government offices have also returned to work while universities, schools & all other educational institutes are originally in the mid-year vacation till Feb 14,” Mr Mattar said.

Like Thailand, Egypt will face a major challenge rebuilding its tourism industry. Egypt’s “national tourism plan” targets an annual level of more than 25 million tourists by 2020.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, for every 1 million new tourism visitors, Egypt generates 200,000 new jobs. Most of them are in hotels and tourism companies but also lead to demand for indirect jobs such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. The government’s economic plans call for the creation of 600,000 new tourism jobs annually, or about one-third of total new employment.

In an interview with Al-Gomhuria newspaper, former Tourism Minister Zoheir Garannah said there are currently 240,000 operating hotel rooms with around 212,000 additional rooms under construction.

The Cairo region and the Red Sea resorts, including Sharm El-Sheikh, are the country’s most popular destinations. However, in order to better distribute tourism, the MoT is looking to the country’s Mediterranean north coast, from the city of El Alamein (150 miles northwest of Cairo) to the summer resort town of Marsa Matrouh, about 300 miles of coastline.

It has been motivating real estate developers to triple the number of available hotel rooms in the area, from 7,000 to more than 22,000 in the next 5-10 years. The target was to attract European tourists – who make up more than 70% of Egypt’s foreign tourist market, followed by intra-regional visitors from the Arab countries.

Four airports in the north shore area (Alexandria, Marsa Matrouh, El-Alamein, and Borg El Arab) are also being upgraded to allow low-cost European airlines to service the area and bypass Cairo.

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