Egypt sets aim of 30% increase in tourist arrivals in 2024 despite war headwinds

North African country attracted 8 million international visitors since the Israel-Gaza war began in October

Visitors at the Egypt stand at the Arabian Travel Market 2024 at Dubai World Trade Centre. Pawan Singh / The National
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Egypt is aiming for an increase of up to 30 per cent in international tourist arrivals this year, despite escalating geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, according to a senior government official.

The North African country expects a 25 per cent to 30 per cent growth in inbound tourists this year, compared with the 27 per cent increase it recorded last year, Ghada Shalaby, Egypt's vice minister for tourism said on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market on Tuesday.

The country hosted 14.9 million international visitors last year, surpassing a previous record of 14.7 million visitors in 2010.

“Egypt had seen demand despite the geopolitical issues, which shows that safety is important but also how the travel professionals and the tourists are quite educated about the role of Egypt during this issue that is happening,” Ms Shalaby said.

“There is demand coming into Egypt even to all its destinations, so the numbers speak for themselves.”

The official's remarks come against the backdrop of escalating geopolitical tensions in the Middle East threatening to derail the economies of Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan, which are all heavily dependent on tourism.

However, since the beginning of the Israel-Gaza war in October, Egypt has attracted 8 million foreign visitors, which underscores the country's safety and stability, Ms Shalaby said.

In the first quarter of this year, Egypt recorded a 3.3 per cent increase in foreign visitors compared to the previous year, according to ministry data. On a year-to-date basis, tourist numbers increased by 2.2 per cent.

Egypt's tourism sector, which makes up about 12 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, was heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, which decreased the number of tourists visiting the region and drove up food prices significantly.

Last year, the country announced that it was aiming to double the number of foreign visitors to 30 million by 2028 while encouraging more private investment in the tourism sector.

Investment opportunities

Egypt has been seeking investments to grow development in both its North Coast and South Sinai regions and to finish incomplete projects, Ms Shalaby said, adding that the country was looking to promote cultural tourism in cities such as Luxor, Aswan, and Cairo.

In February, Egypt announced a $35 billion deal with the UAE's sovereign wealth fund ADQ for the development of the Ras El Hekma peninsula.

A total of $150 billion will be invested to develop Ras Al Hekma into a “fully functional urban community and not just a beach resort”, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said at the time.

“[It]is a really ambitious project and we're all standing behind it. It's going to provide a mix between hotel rooms, touristic accommodations and long rentals,” Ms Shalaby said.

“The project has been drawn and is on the way for inauguration,” she said without revealing further details.

Ms Shalaby expects growing traffic at Egypt's main north coast centre, El Alamein International Airport, to aid the development of the Mediterranean town.

Egypt, which aims to develop 250,000 hotel rooms as part of a plan to reach a revenue of at least $30 billion per year from its tourism sector, plans to add 25,000 hotel rooms this year, with a higher number of foreign tourists expected from the GCC, India and China.

Tourist arrivals from the six-nation economic bloc of Gulf countries are forecast to surge by 45 per cent this year compared with last year, supported by good airline connectivity, Ms Shalaby said.

“We're also about three hours and a half away from major inbound destinations from Europe, from GCC countries and from near and far east destinations, with direct flights either by … Egypt Air, Cairo Air [and] even the other GCC airlines.”

Updated: May 08, 2024, 7:36 AM