Egypt tourism minister sees recovery despite challenges

Updated 24 October 2014
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Egypt tourism minister sees recovery despite challenges

CAIRO: Egypt's tourism minister hopes to fully revive one of the country's most vital industries by next April but persuading the world that it is safe to visit the ancient pyramids or Red Sea resorts after three years of upheaval is a daunting task.
Hisham Zaazou is mounting public relations campaigns, inviting foreign officials to visit and assess Egypt's stability for themselves and boosting security at airports and hotels.
He is fully aware that a single attack by Islamist insurgents or new street protests in a nation destabilized by political turmoil since the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 could instantly undermine what he says is progress.
Zaazou's campaign is highly vulnerable to travel warnings issued by Western states who were the source of most tourists before a slump in business hammered the economy.
"Once you don't have the perception that your security and safety is guaranteed these countries will put out a negative travel advice. And that's closing the door for the client," said Zaazou in an interview for the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit.
"I went around to the source markets and asked these governments, particularly at the ministries of foreign affairs, to send technical delegations to Egypt to check our measures in that respect and write us a report." Zaazou hopes his efforts will return annual tourism revenues — a pillar of the economy — to pre-uprising, peak levels of 2009 and 2010 of $12.5 billion, despite what he calls alarmist media coverage of Egypt.
"At the end of the winter season which is April 2015, not the end of 2015, we should record good numbers of the comeback and the full revival of the tourism industry," he said.
Once peaking at $12.5 billion a year, tourism revenues were less than half that in 2013 at $5.9 billion.
More than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, dropping to 9.8 million in 2011. They picked up the following year to 11.5 million but shrank back to 9.5 million last year.
Tourist revenue in the first half of 2014 was $3 billion, down 25 percent from the same period a year earlier, the government said in August. Government figures had shown tourism contributed 11.3 percent of GDP and 14.4 percent of foreign currency revenues.
Egypt's tourism industry has survived big setbacks in the past.
On Nov. 17, 1997 militants descended on Queen Hatshepsut's temple near the Nile town of Luxor. In a short time they shot or hacked to death 58 tourists and four Egyptians.
The following January and February, visitor numbers were down almost 60 percent from the previous year. Yet the industry staged a remarkable comeback.
Western countries whose travel warnings make Zaazzou's job more challenging are looking at a more complex security equation in Egypt these days.
The rapid advance of Islamic State has worried governments across the region, including in Egypt.
Still, Zaazou is convinced that a greater emphasis on security and innovation can make a difference.
He said he is working closely with security authorities on ways of making the Arab world's most populous nation safer in the hope of luring back European visitors who make up about 70 percent of the market.
He has his eye on potential long-haul tourists from the United States, as well as visitors from China, stressing that the Asian powerhouse exports 98 million tourists globally each year.
"I'm going to concentrate more and more in the coming few weeks on China. There is a proposition to have a charter operation for the first time from China," said Zaazou.
The minister says aside from spending from the Defense and Interior Ministry, about $7 million has been allocated to security from his own ministry's finances over the past year.
To entice foreigners, Zaazou is coming up with new products off the once worn out tracks of the pyramids, Luxor, Aswan and Red Sea beaches.


Gulf defense spending ‘to top $110bn by 2023’

Updated 31 min 44 sec ago
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Gulf defense spending ‘to top $110bn by 2023’

  • Saudi Arabia and UAE initiatives ‘driving forward industrial defense capabilities’
  • Budgets are increasing as countries pursue modernization of equipment and expansion of their current capabilities

LONDON: Defense spending by Gulf Arab states is expected to rise to more than $110 billion by 2023, driven partly by localized military initiatives by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, a report has found.

Budgets are increasing as countries pursue the modernization of equipment and expansion of their current capabilities, according to a report by analytics firm Jane’s by IHS Markit.

Military expenditure in the Gulf will increase from $82.33 billion in 2013 to an estimated $103.01 billion in 2019, and is forecast to continue trending upward to $110.86 billion in 2023.

“Falling energy revenues between 2014 and 2016 led to some major procurement projects being delayed as governments reigned in budget deficits,” said Charles Forrester, senior defense industry analyst at Jane’s.

“However, defense was generally protected from the worst of the spending cuts due to regional security concerns and budgets are now growing again.”

Major deals in the region have included Eurofighter Typhoon purchases by countries including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia is also looking to “localize” 50 percent of total government military spending in the Kingdom by 2030, and in 2017 announced the launch of the state-owned military industrial company Saudi Arabia Military Industries.

Forrester said such moves will boost the ability for Gulf countries to start exporting, rather than purely importing defense equipment.

“Within the defense sector, the establishment of Saudi Arabia Military Industries (SAMI) in 2017 and consolidation of the UAE’s defense industrial base through the creation of Emirates Defense Industries Company (EDIC) in 2014 have helped consolidate and drive forward industrial defense capabilities,” he said.

“This has happened as the countries focus on improving the quality of the defense technological work packages they undertake through offset, as well as increasing their ability to begin exporting defense equipment.”

Regional countries are also considering the use of “disruptive technologies” such as artificial intelligence in defense, Forrester said.

Meanwhile, it emerged on Friday that worldwide outlays on weapons and defense rose 1.8 percent to more than $1.67 trillion in 2018.

The US was responsible for almost half that increase, according to “The Military Balance” report released at the Munich Security Conference and quoted by Reuters.

Western powers were concerned about Russia’s upgrades of air bases and air defense systems in Crimea, the report said, but added that “China perhaps represents even more of a challenge, as it introduces yet more advanced military systems and is engaged in a strategy to improve its forces’ ability to operate at distance from the homeland.”