Events catering to the interests of high-end potential clients and enthusiasts of young talent may contribute to heightening tourist, as well as, real estate investment inflows in the long term, experts say. Among those is the inaugural edition of the El-Gouna Film Festival, the brainchild of Egyptian billionaire and OTMT Chairman Naguib Sawiris. Invest-Gate looks into what EL-Gouna’s international ongoing events mean for the prospective investment climate nationally and in the resort town.

“We highly aim to promote tourism in the country through this festival with our wide reach and exposure whether it is local, regional or international,” Egyptian Actress Bushra Rozza tells Invest-Gate. “The organizing committee of the GFF has already started its on-site construction for three additional indoor cinemas that will hold programs throughout the year; this will activate the cinematic and cultural scene in El-Gouna and will also help in catering for different audiences’ interests.

Egyptian actress Bushra

Additionally, she describes the selections made as “rich”. The program includes up to 15 films in the Narrative Competition, 12 in the Documentary Competition, and up to 28 films in the official selection outside of the competition in addition to an average of 20 films in the short competition. 

“Our event calendar is packed and it would positively reflect on El-Gouna’s real estate market,” Investor Relations Manager of Orascom Development Egypt, Sara El-Gawahergy tells Invest-Gate.

El-Gawahergy adds that the list of invitees was selected based on their discrete backgrounds, largely drawing from the attendee pool at major international film events, including the Cannes Film Festival.

“Many of them are familiar with El-Gouna…we have high-profile calibers attending from numerous countries outside of Egypt, it could be a trigger [for increasing real estate investments],” El-Gawahergy explains, mentioning the effect of other El-Gouna annual activities on investment, including El-Gouna International Squash Open alongside the PSA Women’s World Championship among the other initiatives, which have gained acclaim.

“In our H1, 2017 results, you would see enhancement in our lines of business operations. Occupancy rates improved and we were even able to increase room rates. Real estate sales reached a historical peak in EGP terms. We expect this momentum to continue,” El-Gawahergy positively comments .

ODE is actively partaking in numerous initiatives to attract heightened interest towards El-Gouna, including the launch of the first phase of offices and coworking space, G-Space, earlier in the spring on grounds previously owned by the American University in Cairo. G-Space is entirely sold out, and construction works have begun for a second phase, albeit at an unclear timeline. Gouna News Reporter calls the move a “milestone” in the resort town’s existence.

Other initiatives El-Gawahergy refers to included capitalizing on building squash courts, a massive dedicated party venue in the pipeline that could host numerous events, and the Top Model of the World pageant held in El-Gouna this summer that featured beauties from discrete backgrounds.

Efforts are consistently being made for El-Gouna’s positive exposure globally, be it among the circles of entrepreneurs, supermodels, or artists, despite the current challenges facing the tourism industry. El-Gouna is also home to the first electric bike system in Africa.

“We work very hard on the town’s management, which boosts tourism and enables real estate purchases. We have hosted numerous camps for children in El-Gouna. There is something to do everyday,” El-Gawahergy further argues, telling Invest-Gate that all these successes have taken place despite the inevitable fall in tourist inflows from Russia and the UK given the persistent travel bans on Egypt. The international tourist population in the resort town is now largely constituted by Germans, Eastern Europeans, and some Italians.

While the portfolio of those purchasing homes in El-Gouna largely constituted of foreigners prior to the revolution, the majority of vacation home buyers there, in recent years, remain Egyptian due to the political turmoil and instability that the country has lately experienced. Increasing numbers of tourists and potential vacation home buyers from neighboring Arab countries, including Jordan and Lebanon, are interested, according to El-Gawahergy.

In the company’s H1, ODE CEO Khaled Bichara says that 80% of visitors at ODE-owned resorts are foreigners, who thereby pay in USD, which contributed to the positive performance as the value of the local currency fell.

“Our growth is continuing at an accelerated rate, with Q2 performance more positive than Q1…the occupancy rate in El-Gouna goes to 77% in Q2, which is a positive and sustainable number as far as we are seeing,” Bichara says, adding that more high-end developments are being prioritized in the resort town and the goal to promote El-Gouna as the premier vacation destination in the country is being pursued. The aim is also to further grow the residential community in El-Gouna.

The company’s earnings release for H1, 2017 attributes strong performance to initiatives taken to “uphold the town’s livelihood and ‘Life As It Should Be” slogan, including the electric bike-sharing system and the PSA Women’s World Championship. Improving the amenities in the resort town is among the major costs highlighted in the company’s earnings call for the period.

The El-Gouna Film Festival is scheduled to take place September 22-29 and will likely bring together large groups of international and Arab filmmakers and industry professionals. Work by established and emerging filmmakers alike will be highlighted at the event with a team that includes documentary filmmaker Amir Ramses, acclaimed actress and producer Bushra Rozza, alongside producer Kamel Zadeh. The event will be largely funded by private sector sponsors.

“Seeing that the world is suffering from serious conflicts across different regions, art has always been a means of uniting people; thus, the chosen theme for the GFF is ‘Cinema for Humanity’ as we aspire that this festival will have a positive impact on our society at large and will position us as leaders in the filmmaking industry,” Sawiris told US digital and print magazine the Hollywood Reporter back in May.

As one of Egypt’s most favored vacation destinations increasingly becomes a hub for culture, sports, among other interests, a greater magnitude of interest than ever before is directed towards this luxurious town. El-Gouna continues to promote the Egyptian culture, while promoting the historically influential tourism industry through festivities.