Egypt has not experienced such a tourist invasion for years. This week of Christian Easter, which is followed in seven days by Coptic Orthodox Easter, there are record numbers of visitors in the hotels and resorts of the main Red Sea resorts such as Sharm El Sheikh, Hurgada, Marsa Alam, El Quseir. El Alamein and Alexandria on the Mediterranean are also growing, along with the more traditional destinations that guard the most important treasures of Egyptian civilisation, such as Cairo, Luxor, Aswan.
Nile cruises are also very crowded, connecting Luxor to Aswan and stopping at archaeological sites: both on large cruise ships and small dahabeyha, traditional sailing boats, where the sailing experience is more intimate and closer to nature.
The enormous Egyptian accommodation capacity generates an offer for all budgets, which of course varies according to the level of services purchased. But for foreigners, the prices are now more affordable due to the very strong devaluation of the local currency, the Egyptian pound, which has lost almost 100% against the euro and the US dollar in one year. It is an advantage that exists despite the fact that the price lists of hotels, restaurants, transport and other tourist services have grown a lot along with inflation: it now accounts for around 32% in official statistics and in reality it is over 60% Genres of the first necessity.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Eissa estimates that Egypt will be visited by 15 million people this year, almost a third more than in 2022 and well above the historic record of 13.1 million recorded in 2019. In the first two months of 2023, there was a 35% increase compared to the same period last year.
The lion’s share is taken by Italian tourists, who have grown by 250%, followed by Germans, who have practically doubled.
Tour operators from all over the world are pushing Egypt for package holidays, scheduled and charter flights are on the rise, while new low-cost companies are operating between Europe and the main Egyptian destinations.
The country is investing heavily in this important segment of the economy, opening new museums, enhancing archaeological sites, building infrastructure and embarking on regulatory reforms to encourage the best companies and professionals, improve the quality of services and bring it ever closer to the Internationality to bring norms.
The goal – explains Minister Eissa – is to reach 30 million visitors by 2028, with an estimated annual growth of between 25 and 30 percent.
The mechanism for tourist entry visas has recently been reformed, with the introduction of a new multiple-entry visa: it costs $700, has a five-year term, while the ardent visitor visiting the coral reefs of the Red Sea or ancient pharaonic remains can do so Enter and leave the country as often as you like. The 30-day single visa costs $25 and can be purchased directly at the ports and airports of entry. If you exceed thirty days, don’t worry: just pay a supplement proportional to the additional days of stay.
For the Egyptian economy, tourism is a strategic sector that has now become crucial in dealing with a crisis that began with the lockdowns decided during the pandemic, which completely paralyzed foreign tourism, and then by the food crisis and the inflation it caused the war in Ukraine was further intensified.
Tourism accounts for 15% of GDP and employs about 10% of the labor force in the country, which now has a population of 105 million (a number that is still growing), a third of whom are considered to be below the poverty line, i.e. H. Families living on less than 4,000 Egyptian pounds a month (about 118 euros at current exchange rates).
Strategic sector not only for the figures that it expresses in absolute terms. In fact, for months Egypt has needed hard currencies – precisely those derived from tourism – to pay for the raw materials and basic necessities it imports from abroad and cannot do without, although prices today are significantly higher than in the past.
Containers and cargo often get stuck at ports because of a lack of money to pay bills. Many products are no longer available on supermarket shelves. Meat, poultry, oil, rice cost twice as much as twelve months ago. Bread for the poor still enjoys a price controlled by government subsidies as it did in the 1980s, but grain supplies are hampered by war-related shortages and affect the entire shopping cart.
Egypt is the world’s leading importer of wheat, mostly sourced in Russia and Ukraine, and paid for in dollars.
In this scenario, the Red Sea and antiquities become the valuable asset with which the North African country intends to increase stocks of hard currency, essential for feeding the populace, during this period of serious hardship. At the same time, the government has struck deals with the International Monetary Fund and sovereign wealth funds of many foreign countries for funding to deal with the difficulties.
However, the al-Sisi government’s other strategies for reviving the economy envisage long- and medium-term projects that will take time and foreign aid to get off the ground. The most important, among others, is the one that intends to strengthen and modernize the food chain by 2030, increase the area under cultivation by a third (especially wheat and cereals), and equip the processing industry with avant-garde technologies and knowledge.
On this plan for agriculture, Cairo launched a wide-ranging discussion with Italy in March, asking for cooperation in order to use the know-how, experience and industrial capacity that the Italian agri-food sector can demonstrate worldwide. It’s a project that Italian industry is interested in, but one that requires a number of crucial systemic reforms on the Egyptian side to bring security and agility to foreign investment.