The world economic crisis that hit the Egyptian tourism industry with a 40-45% hotel bed occupancy decline and redundancies at the beginning of 2009 is now over, according to EFG-Hermes Egyptian investment bank.
Tourism Minister Zoheir Garranah says Egypt tourism started 2009 down 17%. The situation has, nevertheless, improved during the rest of the year. In October 2009, the Ministry of Tourism announced there was a 6.4% drop in tourism revenue in the first nine months of 2009; the number of visitors dropped by 5.4% during the same period.
According to the data from November 2009, 10.9 million tourists visited the country in the year, which is 4.5% less than in 2008. Though still a decline, it is however better than it seemed at the beginning of the year. The lower occupancy levels at the beginning of the year could also be partially the consequence of additional 25,000 new hotel rooms on the market.
It is important to mention that Egypt has recorded a significant growth in its tourism industry during last few years. Revenues from the industry grew by 23% to US$11.6 billion in 2008 which represents 11% of Egypt’s GDP. Numbers of tourists coming to the country also rose rapidly in 2008, reaching 12.8 million visitors.
Despite the current decline Egyptians believe the crisis is slowly going away, which means further development for the industry in the future. The goal of the Ministry of Tourism for 2011 is to lure 14 million visitors to Egypt.
The government is well aware of the importance of the industry that employs approximately 10% of the country’s population. Consequently, it has invested in advertising campaigns focusing mainly on their prime market: Europe. Another important source market–Russia–is however currently in trouble because of the declining rouble currency. Positive news for the Egyptian tourism industry is that Arab and domestic tourism is also on the rise.
Meanwhile, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), a UN agency dealing with travel and tourism, is confident that the entire Middle East region will have double the number of visitors coming here by 2020.
The Middle East has witnessed a considerable decline in the number of incoming tourists. According to the UNWTO, 13% fewer visitors arrived to the region in the first seven months of 2009 when compared with 2008. The majority of the Middle Eastern countries however did not report extreme decline but the overall statistics is drawn down by a marked drop in the number of tourists coming to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
This decline has been caused by the global economic downturn and also by the emerging swine flu. Nevertheless, experts argue that the data are a bit distorted because the last year’s results of the tourism industry were very good. In 2008, the region witnessed an 18.2% growth in tourism.
Abu Dhabi recently announced their plan to increase the number of hotel guests to 2.3 million annually by 2012 and Dubai plans to lure 15 million visitors a year by 2015. In the first half of this year Dubai’s hotels hosted 3.85 million guests, which was an increase compared with the 3.68 million guests in the first half of 2008. Those guests were, however, staying only for shorter time, which resulted in lower revenues.
UNWTO experts expect the number of tourists traveling to the Middle East to more than double by 2020. With 54 million tourists visiting the region in 2008, some 136 million are expected to come by 2020. The recovery of the tourism is naturally connected with the recovery of the global economy, which is expected to improve in 2010. Nevertheless, this year will see a global decline of international tourism. According to UNWTO, the decline will range between 4% and 6%.