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Tourism successes in Berlin
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 30 - 03 - 2017

ITB Berlin is one of three major tourism fairs in the world today, along with the ones in London and Dubai, because of its high attendance and its timing in March giving tourism companies an opportunity to sign deals with travel agencies for the summer season four months later or for the winter season. Tourists usually book their trips four to six months ahead of time.
Bad organisation and sparse attendance by Egypt last year raised the ire of the tourism sector, especially since the participating companies did not sign any tourism contracts or agreements during the fair. The participants this year, however, say there was better representation at this month's show.
Egypt's tourism sector was housed in a wing covering 2,405 square metres at the fair, with more than 80 exhibitors including hotels, travel agencies, airlines, the Egyptian Federation of Tourism Chambers (EFTC) and the Chamber of Hotel Facilities. The five-day fair was divided into three days for companies and two for the public.
Minister of Tourism Yehia Rashed said the results of the Berlin Fair were “very positive” and there had been an improvement in Egypt's image as a unique tourist destination. There was strong activity and growing demand among German tourists to come to Egypt, he said, and success in the German market was trickling down to other tourism markets.
This is evident in the desire of airlines working on new frequent-flyer programmes to add their trips to Egypt, which indicates the success and effectiveness of this programme. There have also been demands to lift the travel ban on Taba and to reduce departure taxes so that Egypt charges the same as other countries.
Rashed added that the image of Egypt was greatly improving in the eyes of the world, and recent visits by famous people to Egypt such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Argentinian football player Lionel Messi, and actor Will Smith had left a palpably positive impact.
Sameh Saad, a tourism expert and a former marketing adviser to the minister of tourism, said Egypt's participation with 80 exhibitors at the ITB was positive, but moving the Egypt exhibit from its usual location on the first floor to the second floor meant there had been less traffic.
On the days the show was open to the public there had been no cultural performances to attract visitors, unlike at other country exhibits, he said. Unfortunately, there had been only one folklore troupe present in the first days of the Fair, and it was not up to par so the minister had sent it back to Egypt.
In the last two days of the fair, which were open to the public, most exhibitors had left the Egyptian wing, making it look empty, he said. He called on the EFTC and the Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) to set out specific rules for exhibitors so the wing was never empty, especially since ITB rules stipulate a fine for exhibitors if they leave their exhibits unattended.
Meanwhile, one positive outcome was the fact that one travel agent announced trips to Egypt would begin, and the TPA signed a deal to host 200 travel companies in April in Hurghada. Another travel agent announced trips would begin in May, and Saad expected there would be a surge starting in November 2017.
A news conference attended by Rashed, Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi, and former minister of tourism Hisham Zazou left a good impression, indicating that all agencies, both public and private, were working together.
Tensions between Germany and Turkey also impacted the plans of German tourists for this summer. “I believe this is a good opportunity for Egypt to get a larger share of German and European tourists,” Saad commented.
Another positive development was Egypt's winning this year's top prize for the best promotional campaign. The prize, for the “This is Egypt” campaign, was awarded by the Golden City Gate Award, a major global award with an immediate impact. The award was followed by a decision by the Italian Association of Tour Operators (ASTOI) to hold its annual meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh.
Mohamed Samir Abdel-Fattah, head of the Red Sea Riviera tourism area, who participated in the Berlin Fair, said a news conference by the Egyptian Red Sea and South Sinai Investors Association had also been successful. Aviation Minister Fathi had spoken at the conference along with a representative from the German company Modi that works with the ministry on airport security.
Modi works with the Falcon company to secure Egypt's airports. Abdel-Fattah said the German company supplied search equipment and trained airport personnel. The company attended a news conference entitled “Egypt is Coming Back” to explain plans to protect infrastructure at tourist areas, the role of the government and Ministry of Aviation in pumping money into airports, the funds spent on new airports, and close cooperation between the government and investors.
“As investors in South Sinai, we have seen some difficult times,” Abdel-Fattah said. “But there is now cooperation to increase the number of tourists. We want to see tourism numbers go up to two million in 16 months in cooperation with the Germans,” he added.
German tourism to Sharm El-Sheikh should return to high figures in terms of the number of flights starting in April. By November, there should be some 20 to 25 flights from Germany to Sharm El-Sheikh a week, unprecedented because German tourists often prefer to go to Hurghada or Marsa Alam.
This summer, Hurghada saw 75 per cent more German tourists compared to last year, and further flights are expected to Hurghada and Marsa Alam.
Hisham Idris, a member of the Chamber of Tourism Companies and director of the Al-Wadi Tourism Company, also said the Egyptian pavilion had in the past been located on the first floor of the show, and “we were surprised this year to learn we were relocated to the second floor which does not see such high visitor traffic.”
Another problem had been the decision to raise the price of entry visas to Egypt to $60 at airports shortly before the fair. “We could not finalise some deals with tour operators as a result. This decision should have been applied months after it was taken and not immediately,” Idris said.
He suggested that the Ministry of Tourism and the TPA should meet with all the tourism and hotel companies having stands at the fair for a briefing before travelling to Berlin.
He noted the importance of representatives from tourism, aviation, hotel and Nile cruise companies being present for all five days of the fair. “During the public days of the fair when individuals sign deals and ask questions, representatives at some stands thought they were on vacation even though ITB organisers fine those who do not remain at their stands,” he said.
Idris suggested that the Egyptian pavilion should be divided into seven or eight destinations and the attractions at each destination promoted. Each stand would represent the features of the relevant destination, such as Luxor and Aswan highlighting their specific attractions, for example.
The representatives should be from Luxor and Aswan because they were the best qualified to talk about their destinations to tourists, he said.
He added that there should be a minimum price for five- and four-star hotel rooms because prices below this harmed state-owned hotels and travel agencies. He said the Ministry of Tourism should also regulate hotel prices and ensure they were the same for all nationalities.
“All in all, the Egyptian pavilion this year was better than over the past five years because of the renewed esteem for Egypt and the restoration of stability and security in the country,” Idris said.ac


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