Egypt to offer five-year visa for $700 in bid to boost tourism

Government in Cairo adds more nationalities to be eligible for visa on arrival, including Chinese and Indian

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is among the tourist attractions that the government hopes will draw more overseas visitors. Reuters
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Egypt is offering a multiyear visa for the first time and adding more nationalities to visa-on-arrival eligibility, its tourism minister said on Monday.

A five-year multiple-entry visa will be available for $700, while a single-entry 30-day visa on arrival can now be obtained by more than 180 nationalities for $25.

Among the handful of nationalities that have been added are Chinese and Indian, said Ahmed Issa, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities.

The developments are part of a strategy to boost tourism, a crucial source of foreign currency and jobs for Egypt’s economy which has suffered from the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.

The country, which attracted 11.7 million tourists last year, seeks to boost that number by 25 to 30 per cent annually and reach 30 million by 2028.

Tourist numbers increased by more than 30 per cent in January and February, compared with the first two months of last year, Mr Issa said.

While the two leading tourist sources — Russia and Ukraine — decreased by 40 per cent and 80 per cent, respectively, other nationalities have made up for the loss.

Tourism increased from such countries as the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. The number of Italian tourists increased by 250 per cent.

Mr Issa said he was confident that Egypt would reach this year's target of 15 million tourists, which would make it a record year.

“Even with the decrease of our number-one and number-two tourist sources, the results indicate that we will be able to reach or surpass our goal, God willing, in 2023,” he said.

China has the potential to become one of the top-10 source markets for Egypt, he said.

In 2019, about 220,000 Chinese tourists visited Egypt, out of the 150 million Chinese tourists worldwide.

The pandemic cost destinations worldwide a combined $270 billion in outbound Chinese tourist spending in 2020 and 2021, according to data from the UN World Tourism Organisation.

China’s Minister of Culture and Tourism Hu Heping will be visiting Cairo from April 1-4 and meeting the tourism ministry to explore “the beginning of a new relationship”, Mr Issa said.

Egyptian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Ahmed Issa. Reuters

Egypt will also be making entry procedures easier for Turks, Algerians, Israelis, Moroccans and Iranians, with details being announced in the coming days, he said.

The ministry has also touted the country’s archaeological discoveries to attract cultural tourism.

Two new statues in Saqqara have recently been discovered, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri said on Monday.

Twenty museums have opened in the past four years and the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria will open within weeks, he added.

The long-delayed Grand Egyptian Museum, which has been under construction since 2005, is likely to open between October and January, Mr Issa has said.

Egypt’s tourism numbers dropped to 3.7 million in 2020 during the pandemic, from about 13 million in 2019, according to the country’s statistics agency Capmas.

About 180 nationalities were able to receive a visa on arrival as of last April, provided they have a visa on their passports for the UK, US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, or Schengen countries.

The new tourism strategy led by Mr Issa, who was appointed in August in a cabinet reshuffle, includes more than doubling the number of hotel rooms to 300,000, increasing the number of seats on planes flying in, investing in promotion and improving the overall visitor experience, with about $30 billion in investment needed.

Updated: March 27, 2023, 1:09 PM