Less than 24 hours ago, the Ministry of Tourism’s official Facebook page uploaded an interview of H.E. Dr Rania Al-Mashat, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism, with CNN at the Arabian Travel Market, an international event focusing on the travel and tourism agencies worldwide. John Defterios, CNN’s Emerging Markets Editor, and Al-Mashat covered several critical and current topics about the tourism sector both in Egypt and abroad.
Before we convey the details of the interview, let’s elaborate very briefly on what the Arabian Travel Market is, and why the minister was there. Al-Mashat, with a delegation from the tourism private and government sector, headed for Dubai, where the 4-day event is taking place. Al-Mashat highlighted that this forum will provide an excellent opportunity to effectively communicate with professional partners in the Arab market, in addition to exchanging experiences and discussing means of promoting joint tourism to increase the movement of Arab tourism toward Egypt.
The longer YouTube interview starts with a motivating fact from CNN, “Tourism is booming again in Egypt after an eight-year slump. According to an economist group, 3 million more people visited Egypt in 2018 than the year before.”
Before starting his interview, Defterios analysed the reason behind the boom in travellers. Firstly, the intensification of security for visitors at airports and hotels, not to mention the secret police, to protect visitors entering the country. Secondly, to use his exact words, “broadening the offering beyond the sand and sea at the Mediterranean and also the Red Sea”.
He then goes on to clarify how much Egypt’s statistics have fluctuated over the years since the drastic drop after the tragic downing of the Russian jetliner over Sinai back in 2015. In 2016, total number of visitors fell to 5.4 million from a whopping 14.7 million in 2010! However, thanks to the strenuous efforts of the government, 2018 visitors have now reached 11.3 million.
Defterios’ first question to the minister was, “Why is it so important to protect the tourism sector itself and how do you go about doing it?” She explains how tourism in Egypt represents 15% of the GDP and how it is always the government’s first priority to ensure that everyone feels secure and safe. As a result, a lot was spent on security-related infrastructure.
They shifted to talking about the Grand Egyptian Museum, or the GEM as Al-Mashat refers to it, and whether or not it imposes a burden on Egypt. She eloquently replies,
“It’s going to be open in the fourth quarter of 2020. It is a clear testament that Egypt has a lot of heritage and a lot of antiquities to show to the world in an era where cultural tourism is on a decline. We believe that the GEM is going to revive cultural tourism again, not just to Egypt but the whole world”. She added, “This is the only museum in the world that has the full collection of Tutankhamun, and the only place where the pyramids is the backdrop.”
Her Excellency stressed on Egypt’s Tourism Reform Program that aims to employ at least one individual from each Egyptian household to work in the sector. She explains how such an initiative entails that training, capacity development, allowing the youth to engage in startups, technology, and digitalisation is something that they believe in and promote.
With tourism in Egypt being recognised last month by the World Travel and Tourism Council, as well as exceeding the global average of 4% with a whopping growth percentage of 16% last year, our country is definitely becoming a model of resilience worldwide.