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May 14, 2008

EGYPTIAN SHIFT:Why Egypt is embracing luxury brand values

Preliminary figures suggest that last year Egypt welcomed more than 10 million tourists, generating $7.2 billion. Meetings and business tourism currently only accounts for around 4% of this fugure, but the country aims to change this, targeting 5% of total tourism for 2008.

As such, Egypt is in the process of re-positioning itself as a luxury brand for niche markets rather than a mass tourism destination. One of the issues that the destination has needed to address has been to change its image, which is declining, especially in Europe, due to the fact that it is being perceived as more of a destination for mass tourism.

“We have an excellent product and we must showcase our luxury elements and profile them in a cluster and add them to the real value we have,” says Ezabi. “Of course this does not mean that mass tourism will be ignored, but the niche luxury brand will complement this and be promoted actively in target destinations. Hurghada is a mass tourism destination, but El Gouna, Port Ghalib and Taba Heights can cater to the high-end market.”


Image change: Egypt wants to move away from mass tourism

Niche tourism

Ezabi says ETA is already working on a promotion campaign, which will effectively reflect this strategy, and rollout is expected soon. “I am planning to build a cluster of niche tourism offerings such as wellness, diving, golf and incentives as an integrated part of our main marketing strategy, and will adopt an exclusive approach to dominant emerging markets such as China and India,” he says. “This is the image that I want to project. In other markets like Europe, we can roll out a parallel strategy reflecting real products and real value in Egypt where, in addition to mass tourism, we offer real quality as well.”

Ezabi believes this is something that leading destination marketing companies and travel organisations have already successfully done with their own operations. Kuoni and World-Class Kuoni, for example, attract two different sets of consumers, with the former catering to mass tourism and the latter being tailor-made for the high-end segment.

However, one thing that is undoubtedly holding Egypt back is the lack of a convention bureau.

“We are aware of this fact and realise the shortcomings,” says Ezabi. “Nevertheless, we initially need to mobilise the units that will support a convention bureau. These units will be a bridge with the trade professionals; only then can we think of establishing a convention bureau. This initiative will come from the Cairo International Convention Centre and plans are already underway.

The country is certainly not being held back by a lack of business infrastructure, with Egypt having recently built major new conference centres in Sharm El Sheikh and Port Ghalib.

“Both these facilities are world-class and capable of hosting large meetings and conferences,” continues Ezabi. “We are planning to host the annual meeting for German Travel Agents’ Association at Port Ghalib. We are also supporting charter flights to both destinations. ETA organises sponsored familiarisation trips for buyers from France, Italy and the UK to these emerging destinations.”

Indeed, the destination has seen a resurgence of interest from the US. France is also becoming an important source market, as is Germany and Canada. Inter-regional markets are also looking to Egypt and the emerging destinations, such as Port Ghalib, are proving to be very popular.

To cope with the rising popularity, there has been a major investment specifically aimed at the meetings sector.

“New hotel chains such as Fairmont are making their foray in the country with excellent meeting facilities,” explains Ezabi. “Mega developments like Marsa Alam and more specifically Port Ghalib, El Gouna, and Sharm El Sheikh are three key elements for the meetings industry with a host of hospitality developments.

“Accessibility has been enhanced by developing the airports. The capacity of Cairo has been almost doubled and, by the end of 2008, we will be able to accommodate 22 million arrivals per annum. We have added a new airport in Sharm El Sheikh and that is a great boost for business tourism. An airport is being developed in Hurghada. The north coast is being serviced by four airports. A new conference centre is being developed in Porto Marina west of Alexandria. We operate an open-air policy for all cities except Cairo, which encourages new airlines to look at these destinations.”

As a business tourism destination, the outlook for Egypt for 2008 is certainly good.

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