CAIRO (AP) — Egypt is seeking to double the number of visitors to the country in the next five years, its top tourism official told The Associated Press.
Egypt is aiming at reaching 30 million visitors by 2028, as its once-thriving tourism sector recovers from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and the grinding war in Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Tourism and Antiquities Minister Ahmed Issa said Tuesday.
“We’re seeing unparalleled demand, unprecedented demand for travel into Egypt,” Issa said in an interview.
He said Egypt had received 10 million tourists in the first eight months of 2023, and was “well on track to achieve around 15 million this year, which is going to be a record year for the tourism industry.”
The sector is a major source of foreign currency for the cash-strapped North African country. Last year, tourism revenues surged to $10.7 billion, up from around $5 billion in 2021, according to the Egyptian central bank.
The government’s plan focuses on what he calls the “supply side,” which includes increasing the number of hotel rooms in the country and seats on flights to Egypt by more than 30% annually, as well as encouraging more private investment in the tourism sector.
Issa said they would add 25,000 hotel rooms to Egypt’s current capacity of about 210,000. Such an increase, he said, would help the government achieve its target of 18 million tourist visits in 2024.
“That will be the fastest growth in (hotel) rooms in Egypt over the past 20 years,” he said.
Egypt has made a years-long effort to revive its battered tourism industry. The sector was badly hit during and after the popular uprising in 2011 that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak and the ensuring unrest. The country received over 14 million tourists in 2010.
The coronavirus, followed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, dealt another blow, just as the sector was getting back on its feet.
In recent years, the government has touted its ancient history as a major selling point. It has publicized pharaonic discoveries, building and renovating museums and tourist sites across the country.
Issa spoke to the AP from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, a neoclassical structure built in the late 19th century and the first purpose-built museum in the Middle East and North Africa.
The museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cairo, drawing an average of 10,000 visitors a day, said museum director Ali Abdel-Halim. It holds tens of thousands of antiquities in its collection, some of which have never been exhibited.
In recent years, the government has embarked on renovating the museum, in cooperation with five major institutions in Europe, including the British Museum and the Louvre in Paris, Abdel-Halim said.
The four-phase project, which is partly financed by the European Union, includes a renovation of the entire building, which was designed by the famed French architect Marcel Dourgnon.
For decades, the museum in central Cairo was the main facility housing Egyptian heritage treasures. But in recent years, the the government transferred many artifacts — such as the prized royal mummies — to the newly opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilization and the Grand Egyptian Museum, a mega-project which has been under construction for well over a decade near the famed Giza Pyramids.
Issa said they were working to finish construction and complete the installation by the end of the year, and the museum would be ready for its opening ceremony “very soon.”
He said they are working to set a date for the ceremony when many world leaders can attend.
“It’s going to be a magnificent day for … the entire humanity that is interested in history and culture and archaeology and heritage,” he said.