Egypt reported an increase in the number of tourists from the UAE even as overall visitor figures fell.
The number of visitors from the UAE increased by 35 per cent during the first five months of the year to 10,250. Overall tourist arrivals fell 26.2 per cent during the same period, according to the country’s tourism ministry.
Saudi Arabia accounted for 98,250 visitors, up by 6.3 per cent, while the number of visitors from Kuwait went up by 10.8 per cent to 41,362.
Most of the UAE visitors heading to the Red Sea resorts of Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada, with April and May the peak months for these destinations. These recorded 36.6 per cent and 27.3 per cent growth respectively in the number of UAE visitors year-on-year.
With the completion of the presidential election, the situation was stable and more encouraging for tourism than two years ago, said Rasha El Azaizi, the spokeswoman for Egypt’s tourism ministry.
“Most Gulf and Arab residents are familiar with the country, many have their homes here, and have attended colleges here, and so are more comfortable than tourists from other countries on visiting Egypt,” she said. “There was an increase in tourist numbers from most Arab countries [during the first five months of the year].”
The country was considering a visa on arrival service for expatriate residents of the Arabian Gulf of any nationality, which could be offered as early as next month, said Ms El Azaizi. The move would echo a similar decision taken two years ago by Lebanon. Egypt already offers visa on arrival for a number of nationalities.
Tourists from Arab countries also stayed longer, on average for 11.6 nights, up from an average of 9.5 nights last year.
The ministry expects to attract 2 million Arab tourists by the end of the year, according to Egyptian media reports.
Monthly figures show a different picture overall during the peak summer months. In May, 768,221 people visited the country, a decline of 21 per cent. The biggest source market was still Europe, although arrivals fell to 590,000 from 684,000 last year.
Germany’s lifting of a travel warning this month is expected to increase tourism income.
In May there were also fewer tourists from the Middle East, with numbers dropping by 42 per cent to 98,434 visitors.
At least one tour operator from Dubai has reported a decrease in inquiries and an increase in cancellations on travel to Egypt.
“Just a month ago, we had a cancellation of a group of 45 people going to Sharm El Sheikh due to the recent threats within the region,” said Kulwant Singh, the managing director of Dubai-based Lama Tours. “Egypt used to be a popular short-haul destination for holidays such as Eid, but that hasn’t been encouraging this year.”
Visitors prefer other destinations in the region and beyond such as Oman, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Vietnam among others, he said.
As unrest kept tourists away from its major destinations along the Nile, the two Red Sea towns attracted 74 per cent of the total number of tourists visiting Egypt through May, the ministry said.
Earlier this year, Egypt launched a promotional campaign called “Wahashtouna” (we have missed you) with its national carrier Egypt Air and hotels in a bid to revive tourism from Arab and Gulf countries. The promotion included airfare and accommodation packages, as well as special direct flights to the Red Sea resorts from Riyadh, Jeddah and Kuwait.
This included Egypt Air and Egypt Air Express services from Jeddah and an Air Cairo link between Kuwait and Hurghada.