Regional focus

deserves credit too. Both Graham and Karim highlight the improved security situation post-2015, with Karim noting that flights between Russia and Sharm el-Sheikh were recently restored after the disaster six years ago. New infrastructure is helping too. The Abdel Fattah el-Sisi government plans to expand Egypt’s road network to 30,000km – up from 23,000km – with swanky new Russian railway carriages in the works too. Apart from making the country more tempting to would-be investors, Graham also emphasises that all this makes Egypt more attractive for visitors. To prove his point, he describes travelling around Cairo by car. Despite the city’s infamous traffic jams, he says that journeys that once took three hours can now, mercifully, be completed in one.

The Nile as it passes through the city of Aswan, one of many river-based gateways to Egypt’s ancient past.

now, over 90% of the French giant’s Egyptian properties have implemented Allsafe, with the remainder due to catch up soon. It is clear, though, that implementing robust safety measures is only the most immediate way of reviving Egypt’s tourism industry. Like other brands, Accor is also embarking on a major investment scheme in the country. That starts along Egypt’s long coastlines.

“We have a strong pipeline in Egypt, which only reinforces our belief in the country as a destination, as well as a location to conduct business.”

Mark Willis, Accor $13bn

Revenue that tourism brought to Egypt in 2019.

Central Bank of Egypt $4bn

Revenue that tourism brought to Egypt in 2020. A fall of 70%.

Egypt’s Ministry of State of Antiquities


In March 2021, for instance, it opened the Rixos Premium Magawish, an elegant whitewashed property by the sea at Hurghada. It is shadowed by two more beach hotels, one in Sharm el-Sheikh, and the other at Ain Sokhna near Suez. Nor is Accor alone. Hilton, for example, has a pipeline of nine hotels planned for Egypt by 2026. Luxury brands are investing too, with Fairmont unveiling an extravagant Raffles on the banks of the Nile. Given wealthy travellers from the Gulf are increasingly flocking to the country – GCC tourism spending in Egypt reached over $2bn in 2020, according to Arabian Travel Market – this focus on glamour seems wise.

In part, this growth can be understood as simply building on Egypt’s deep foundations of hospitality. As Willis puts it, the country’s “comparatively well- developed” tourism infrastructure helps make Egypt an “even more attractive” destination for tourists. Maybe so – but the Egyptian government

Ancient history now Earlier this year, Egyptians were treated to an unusual sight. Nearly two dozen mummies – 18 kings and four queens – were solemnly paraded through downtown Cairo in special cars. The vehicles, decked out in hieroglyphs and painted gold, were designed to look like the funeral rafts the mummies had taken on what they had hoped would be their final journey. The whole spectacle was televised on Egyptian TV, and people even had the chance to show their passion via a filter on Facebook. And what was all this for? The mummies were travelling over the Nile to the Grand Egyptian Museum, a spectacular $795m palace of glass and steel near the pyramids at Giza. Egypt’s glorious past has been having a moment – and those funeral rafts are just the start. In April this year, archaeologists uncovered a huge pharaonic city near Luxor, with ancient ovens and utensils still visible even after 30 centuries. For Dr Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s most famous archaeologist and the man responsible for the find, the practical benefits of the discovery are obvious. “We hope that after Covid-19,” he explains, “we can really have a lot of tourists – who already recognise the importance of Egypt as a destination.” Between the new hotels, the new infrastructure and the spectacular new archaeological discoveries, it would be fair to assume that Egypt’s tourism industry is back on track after a decade of wobbles. That’s certainly what industry insiders think anyway. “We have a strong pipeline in Egypt, which only reinforces our belief in the country as a destination, as well as a location to conduct business,” emphasises Willis. “We look forward to continue being one of the main hospitality management companies in the country, as we expand our offering and portfolio.” The mother of the world may be tired after years of exertions – but you’d be foolish to count her out just yet. ●

Hotel Management International /


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