As the value of the local currency declined in recent months, trips abroad became less affordable to Egyptian nationals, leading to an increase in inbound bookings during national and religious holidays nationwide. For international visitors, Egypt had become more attractive that inflows rose to around 1.7 mn visitors in Q1 of 2017, a relatively strong improvement from 1.2 mn visitors reported for the comparable period in 2016, according to a Tourism Ministry source speaking to Ahram Online in May. Tourism revenues amounted to USD 1.6 bn Q1 of 2017, growing y-o-y from USD 1.5 bn. Germans, Britons, and Ukrainians comprised the bulk of international tourists. In light of this recovery, Invest-Gate highlights the updates and developments taking place across Egypt’s summer destinations.
Egypt plans to promote religious, medical and luxury travel, and continue developing new markets in India and Eastern Europe. The current regime is working to ease travel for GCC residents through an e-visa program, in line with efforts to boost tourist inflows. Fly Dubai, Emirates, and Al-Jazeera Airways are also reportedly moving to increase scheduled weekly flights to Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh. Additionally, the Tour ‘n’ Cure hepatitis C medical tourism program, was promoted through a recent visit by Barcelona FC star Lionel Messi to Egypt. The House of Representatives is working to draft new legislation promoting and organizing Egypt’s medical tourism segment. Numerous tourism companies have reported increased profitability with the market recovering.
Governorates of South Sinai and Red Sea
Today, most of the South Sinai region is buzzing with tourists, primarily locals arriving from Cairo and other Egyptian cities. Whether en route for a hike to Dahab’s remote neighbor of Abu Galloum or a signature dive at the Blue Hole a few kilometers east of town, tourism destinations in the peninsula have witnessed increased bookings by Egyptian nationals during the past couple of years and in recent months. “The campsite here was entirely inhabited by Israelis and Europeans until five years ago when Egyptians became all over Sinai,” says Ibrahim, a Bedouin from Mezeina Tribe working at Blue Lagoon, the iconic kitesurfing destination a few kilometers further east from Dahab’s neighboring Abu Galloum campsite. “I think Egyptians have definitely developed a newfound appreciation for our tourist destinations in recent years.”
Along the Red Sea’s western coast, the crystal clear waters of Hurghada, El Gouna, and Marsa Alam maintain their appeal to all kinds of tourists with a much older profile and a higher budget. Large tourist resorts have replaced most of the eastern coast campsites, today. Marsa Alam, the host to Wadi El Gemal National Park, Qulaan Islands, and an astronomy center, is acclaimed for its sandy beaches and coral reefs; and is home to numerous high-end hotels, maintaining its appeal among circles of nature lovers.
Heading north, Orascom’s El Gouna boasts superb infrastructure and excellent services, according to the resort town’s website. Inflows of visitors are kept steady with the appeal of frequent sports and nightlife events, including the likes of El Gouna International Squash Open and Nacelle’s Sandbox Music Festival. Just a few kilometers further south, the Egyptian Resorts Company’s Sahl Hasheesh holds an annual triathlon, organized by the Trifactory. Summer temperatures in those areas are at around 30°C with lower humidity levels- in comparison to Cairo or Alexandria- making the escape to the Red Sea, even during the summer months, ideal for city dwellers.
“With tourism picking up, the overall sentiment on Egypt will improve… people will look at this country in a safer perspective and this should change how people view Egypt,” says Orascom Hotel Developments’ Head of Investor Relations Sara El Gawahergy.
A total of seven investment projects, worth of EGP 4.1 bn, have recently been signed for implementation in the Governorate of Red Sea, as per a meeting held between Red Sea Governor Ahmed Abdallah and the Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr on February 27. Currently, around 42 foreign companies are investing in mega projects across the governorate at a total cost of EGP 50 bn.
Given its close proximity to Cairo, Ain Sokhna is an ideal destination for short weekend or day-use getaways. With a mere hour-long drive, Cairo residents and tourists land at the national hotspot for deep-fishing, pristine beaches, snorkeling, and desert adventures. Local and international tourists alike enjoy jet-skiing, paddle boating, or visiting malls, restaurants, and spas. Ain Sokhna is also a great stop for those intending to visit the Suez Canal.
The area is seeking heavier investment inflows, with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi announcing the new 200 mn-square meter industrial zone currently under construction. Exciting new developments are coming up, such as the Santorini Project by Amer Group through a partnership with Porto Group Holding. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has also expressed willingness to fund the establishment of a railway line, connecting Ain Sokhna, New City, 6th of October City, and Al-Alamein, Invest-Gate previously reported.
Several developers in the area are offering waterfront chalets with feasible payment methods, including real estate developer, Misr Italia, with its project, Mousa Coast, at the nearby Ras Sedr.
“I can confirm that we constantly receive several requests from foreign investors of different nationalities aside from the GCC countries, including British, German, and Dutch, to name a few. Their main objective in the area is to buy retirement homes by the sea,” Chairman of the Ain Sokhna Tourism Investors Authority, Mohamed Roshdy, previously told Invest-Gate. “Today, the wheels have changed to our favor. Foreigners are coming back and are asking about Egyptian destinations, as well as, looking for ways to invest in the country, whether as corporates or individuals.”
The year-round winds at Ain Sokhna also make it a closer destination for those interested in windsurfing than Ras Sedr or other locations further away in Sinai. Various schools such as FlyKiteSurfing offer courses at the nearby Zafarana.
Ras Sedr and Ain Sokhna are both hubs of secondary home ownership, which Egyptians largely account for while international investors amount to merely 2% of secondary home ownership in Egypt.
The northern Egyptian shores from Alexandria to Marsa Matrouh have always been a haven to local tourists. In recent years, areas including Al-Alamein, Sidi Abdel Rahman, Sidi Heneish, and Ras El Hekma have seen more developments than ever, including Etap Resort, Mountain View, and Fouka Bay. Nightlife across the many seaside resorts have become popular amongst the Egyptian elite, making the North Coast popular especially during the summer weekends.
Likewise, the public sector is heavily investing in the area. Government developments and construction in the Al-Alamein area are to support the heavier tourist flows further west from Alexandria. The New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) is funding the construction of residential and hospitality projects in New Al-Alamein City, “featuring 25,000 hotel rooms and many entertainment venues,” Minister of Housing Mostafa Madbouly announced earlier this month. The New Al-Alamein City is to include an industrial zone, universities, and schools, according to the ministry’s released statement. Additionally, over 2,000 social housing units are currently being built to accommodate the lower-income population, serving developments in the area.
Marsa Matrouh is also to see some major developments, including the government’s latest project entitled Jarjob City & Port. Hyde Park Developments (HPD) has recently announced its latest project, Coast 82, encompassing a thousand units, a mall, a five star hotel; in addition to, 550 meters of waterfront at a total investment cost of EGP 12.5 bn. Coast 82 is to be launched later this year. Another developer implementing a similar project is Tatweer Misr Developments, with its Fouka Bay residential project at Ras El Hekma, comprising a variety of fully furnished waterfront homes. The project includes waterfront villas, double-decked twin houses and townhouses, spacious chalet cabins, and bungalows overlooking the beach.
With its developmental reform plan across the country, the Egyptian government will Egypt on the world tourism map and make its coastal cities operational all year round.