An Italian delegation of tour operators attended to an urgent meeting, held in Manasterly Palace on the banks of the Nile River, organized by Mr.Tawfic Assy, Chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Authority, and Mr.Sherif Hussein, Vice President Commercial of Egyptair. The reason for the meeting was to seek the tour operators’ support, since Italy is among the top five tourist markets for Egypt. The tour operators wanted to communicate the intention of the government to support vigorously the tourism industry, as it is the second earning source for the country.
Present at the meeting from the Egyptian government were the Prime Minister Hesnam Quandil; Mr. Mohamed Abbas Zaazou, Minister of Tourism; and the Minister of Civil Aviation, Wael al-Maaddawi.
The Italian delegation was led by the President of Astoi (Association of Italian Tour Operators) and Confindustria Travel, Mr. Nardo Filippetti; Ms. Flavia Franceschini, dg Astoi; Ms. Cinzia Renzi and Mr. Cruciani, both VPs for Astoi. The Intermediation Committee of the Association included the strongest Italian promoters of Egypt: Alpitour, Costa Crociere, Eden Viaggi, Going, Hotelplan, Kuoni, Best Tours, Metamondo, Mistral, Settemari, Swan Tour, and Viaggi dell’Elefante. The meeting was chaired by Mohamed El Gabbar, GM of Egypt Tourism for Italy.
Filippetti reported difficulties and uncertainties of tour operating, emphasizing first the importance of customers’ security needs being ensured, especially in the Sinai district. “The tour operators will be able to return to invest,” he said, “only when the situation has stabilized.” Filippetti went on to say that Italian travelers in Egypt, depend on the fundamental presence of Italian-appointed resident staff for language reasons. In addition, it is unacceptable that the Italian work force in the tourism villages cannot exceed 10%. Furthermore, it is not acceptable that the complex Egyptian bureaucracy forces Italian staff (appointed by T/O) to idle in the country for three months before they obtain a work permit. And last but not least, it is deemed necessary that Egypt authorities will allow, in emergency situations, their return by charter, even after extended stays.
Filippetti insisted that Egypt should support incentives such as charter flight operations organized by Italian tour operators. He also asked for transparency on the agreements between Egypt and the low-cost airlines, at a time when also Easy Jet is planning a flight from Italy to Sharm, one of the most popular destinations for Italian sun-seekers. Finally, he indicated that the increase in fuel prices should not affect prices of the hotels, and the Egyptian government should instead support this in some way.
Tourism Minister Mohamed Abbas Zaazou, a professional in the tour operating business with experience in the private sector, reported the numbers of the tourism crisis: Italian arrivals fell from 848,000 in 2010 to 458,000 in 2011, and edged up to 570,000 in 2012. The government and trade will fight together on several levels, in full unity of purpose, assured the Minister, with incentives to stimulate the return to Egypt of the Italian charter operation, focusing on inter-modality for combined routes of Luxor, Aswan, St. Catherina, and the revival of the Valley of the Nile at the top. “Egypt is safe,” said Abbas Zaazou, “and will be even more so after the elections,” pointing to the negative image of Egypt given by the Italian media which has concentrated on “that square mile of Tahrir Square” where Egyptians merely express their thoughts.
The objectives for 2013
At the roundtable session between the Italian delegation and local authorities, Minister Zaazou indicated the target for 2013 should be at the level of 2010. In 2012 the number of Italian tourists in Egypt increased by 29%, an indication that “we can do it” he said to the astounded Italian operators who fired a heated question-and- answer reaction which included the claim that they had not yet received the incentives approved for the charter operation of the 2012 season. Minister Zaazou assured that the dues would be settled within 60 days.
The case regarding the Easy Jet operation from Italy was faced by Sherif Hussein, GM of Egyptair Italy. “Our schedule of 14 flights to Rome and 14 to Milano can be double and triple the seat numbers if so required, and we can offer very special prices. We plan to open new scheduled services from Bologna, Verona, and Catania. Smart Air aircraft will be based in Sharm and Marsa Alam, and inter-modality will be encouraged, assuring that ‘we can compete,’” said Hussein. The proposal to reinstate the Milan-Luxor service was positively accepted by Sharif Hussein promising also a good price, provided that the tour operators can assure good load factors.
The Minister of Zaazou replied to the question about the entry visa increase from US$15 to US$25. He said, “It will not go above US$20 and will be applicable only in certain airports,” On the issue of fuel price, the Minister said, “If it grows, it will be notified well in advance, and hoteliers will be protected. We are planning the supply of natural gas and new forms of clean energy. A new advertising campaign is being approved complete with co-marketing. We need it urgently on television, and we will start using last year’s image campaign.”