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A Home at the hotspot: Abu Soma capitalizes on Red Sea's comparative advantage
Published in Daily News Egypt on 05 - 12 - 2007

CAIRO: "The Red Sea has become an [integral] component of Egyptian tourism, a new sub-sector that has developed on the oasis to become bigger - in terms of number of arrivals - than other traditional [tourist sites], Farid Saad, chairman of Abu Soma Development Company, told Daily News Egypt.
Expanding on the various benefits the tourism industry has to offer investors, the company developed Soma Bay 15 years ago as a holiday destination on the Red Sea coast, offering tourists a chance to experience a different side to Egypt.
Seeing continuous success and an increasing number of visitors, the company is currently expanding with two new properties slated to open in 2008. It's also making a foray into the resort housing domain.
Investors in the tourism industry realize the contribution of their business to Egypt's overall economic growth and are calling on the government to tackle infrastructure issues that may hinder further progress.
Operating under the slogan, "The ultimate resort destination on the Red Sea, Soma Bay has "tried to position itself in the upper end of the market, Saad said.
Surrounded by lower-priced resorts developed by individuals in Taba, Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada, Soma Bay stresses that it targets the upper-end clientele. "We built our facilities to international standards and we have to position ourselves there, he said.
Conveniently located just 45 km from Hurghada International Airport, 40 km from El-Gouna Resort and 160 km from Marsa Allam, the resort includes three hotels: Sheraton Soma Bay Resort, Robinson Club and La Résidence des Cascades.
"We have an attractive site with sandy beaches, year-round sunshine, top-of-the-line hotels, golf courses and a grand Spa and Thalasso Center, Saad said. The enticing combination is what attracts European clientele, and the fact that it's about four hours away makes it all the more convenient to visit the self-contained peninsula.
The Red Sea's comparative weather and location advantages over its counterparts, such as the Caribbean, Dubai, South Africa and the Far East, keep tourists coming back.
In 2008, the company will build on its success by opening two resorts. One of these is "the Breakers Diving and Surfing Lodge, a reasonably priced 160-room hotel being established right next to the Dive Center, he said.
The second hotel is the Kempinski Hotel Soma Bay, marking the hotel chain's debut in the Egyptian market. Designed as a Moorish fortress with oriental accents, the hotel features an impressive system of pools, waterfalls and lagoons that extend over 7,000 square meters.
Abu Soma will also introduce the Soma Breeze Hotel Residences, which will include furnished apartments with hotel configurations over an area of 40,000 square meters overlooking the sea and golf course.
"We [currently] have three large real estate agencies in Europe marketing this project, he said.
Although the apartments come at a hefty price tag, Saad feels it is an attractive option for those seeking to invest in a year-round resort destination.
However, Saad argues that Egypt could do more to attract tourists to the country, especially in the aviation sector.
"EgyptAir continues to be a quasi-monopoly, we still need more flights arriving at Hurghada International Airport, he said.
Promoting more flights to Hurghada - by improving charter flights or the airport in general - would definitely contribute to promoting the array of tourist sites across the country. "If connecting flights are made easier, tourists will be encouraged to fly to other destinations, he explained, "most of our visitors go back to their countries after their stay at Soma Bay.
Nevertheless, he believes that with the growing number of tourist developments in the area, aviation companies will realize the need for more flights. Basically, he said, the competition will eventually lead to easier access.
He called on the government to revise fiscal policies, especially those related to taxation. "The sales tax needs to be rationalized, as well as the high custom duties on imports associated with tourism development, he said.

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