When you think of Egypt, what is the first thing that comes into your mind? Let me guess, pyramids. That is all most of us know. Well, there is more to Egypt than just pyramids. There are ancient Pharaonic antiquities, beaches, smooth vast coastlines, luxurious sea resorts and many more. Egypt is known to be the world’s largest open-air museum. It boasts of 7000 years of majestic history and civilization. There are many types of tourism in Egypt which include; Archaeological tourism, which is one of the oldest types of tourism in Egypt and is a unique and non-competitive component of tourism, religious tourism, therapeutic tourism, maritime tourism and recreational tourism among other types. Most tourists that visit Egypt come from Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and America.
Tourism is one of the leading sources of income in Egypt. It has been a very important sector to the economy since 1975, after visa restrictions were eased and embassies were established in other countries such as Denmark and Finland. In 1976, 12% of Egypt’s budget was dedicated to upgrading hotels, major tourist attractions and improving infrastructure. Since then, the number of tourists has been increasing over the years.
According to a paper written by Sahar Tohamy and Adrian Swinscoe in 2000, (http://www.eces.org.eg/cms/NewsUploads/Pdf/2019_1_7-11_46_1yy.pdf) , receipts from international tourism increased by an average of 8.2% annually in the 1990s reaching $440 Billion in 1998, while international arrivals during the same period rose by a yearly average of 4.3% to reach $635 Million in 1998. This exceeded the revenues from exports of petroleum products, motor vehicles, telecommunication equipment and textiles. In the fiscal year 2018-2019, Egypt’s revenues from the tourism sector were at $12.6 million which is said to be the highest gains of all time. This is due to an increase in diploma courses on hospitality and tourism management which provided thorough training to help improve the tourism sector. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 response measures, revenues from the tourism sector dropped significantly by nearly 70% to $4 Billion, this is according to reuters.com. The number of visitors in 2020, reduced to 3.5million down from 13.1 million visitors in 2019. The good news is that a gradual recovery is expected in the year 2021. Oxfordbusinessgroup.com states that rising visitor numbers will be supported by the construction of Capital International Airport, which will serve the new capital city , starting in early 2021.
The tourism sector has led to many opportunities that have led to the economic growth of Egypt through reduction of poverty. As quoted by IMF and IDA(1999), “Poverty means a lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a clinic or school to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals , households and communities”. According to Dr Harold Goodwin, a director at University of Greenwich, tourism has led to the reduction of poverty in Egypt through the following ways; i) employment of the poor in tourism enterprises, ii) investment in infrastructure which provides livelihood benefits to the poor, iii) direct sales of goods and services by the poor, so as to earn a living, iv) taxes or levies on tourism revenues of profits with profits benefitting the poor and v) voluntary giving of resources such as money and goods by tourists and enterprises, in ways that benefit the poor people.
Tourism is also one of the main sources of decent job opportunities in Egypt. According to Dr Badr Abdelatty, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Berlin, states that tourism creates a long- term perspective of a decent life in Egypt. He further states that the tourism industry generates jobs for 5 million people, and it is a fundamental income for their 10 to 15 million family members. Tourism accounts for around 9% of the country’s jobs. The image below shows how the tourism industry has contributed to economic growth and employment in Egypt from 2010 – 2017.
The contribution of tourism to employment continues to grow and according to politiklounge.com, the tourism industry could potentially create 800,000 new jobs in Egypt over ten years.
Unfortunately, the tourism sector in Egypt faces a lot of challenges such as terrorism. There is an inverse relationship between terrorism and the tourism industry. Terrorism is a real threat not only to the residents, but also to international tourists. A conference paper written by Hanaa Esmail in 2018(researchgate.net), suggests that more security is needed to serve the tourism industry and an addition necessity to combat terrorism through international conferences and seminars held in order to prove to everyone that there is safety. According to carnegieendowment.com, Egypt is no stranger to attacks against tourists. In 2015, the Egyptian military mistook a Mexican tourist convoy for militants, and this led to the killing of eight Mexican tourists. Furthermore, several attacks have occurred in popular sites such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Luxor. This has been an obstacle for the tourism sector in Egypt since it leads to reduction of revenues generated from the tourism sector.
Despite the challenges and setbacks, Egypt continues to develop the tourism sector to accomplish its vision 2030. In 2018, Egypt teamed up with a German organization promoting international cooperation, to improve on the quality of training in the tourism sector. Strategies have been developed to improve the vocation education system , introduce more practice-oriented training programs and promote cooperation between the public sector and private sector. Furthermore, Egypt has also partnered with TUI, a tourism company in Egypt, to make local investments and persuade people to visit its country with an aim of achieving its very ambitious tourism policy objectives. This is according to a policy agenda report written by TUI. The Red Sea Governor, Ahmed Abdalla, suggests that they are looking forward to future successful projects due to the partnership between TUI and Egypt.
Melyn Atieno. Strathmore University of Mathematical Sciences Writer at Cue Africa Email: firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn: Melyn Were