Egypt a jewel in the crown
Of all the countries along the north African coast, the jewel in the crown as far as tourism goes, has to be Egypt. It seems it has everything to draw the most jaded of visitors – sun, sand, sea, monuments, ruins, culture – you name it and someone in the tourism board will tell you they have it!
Egypt's tourism sector grew 24 percent in the past fiscal year, according to the country's minister for economic development, Osman Mohamed Osman at the start of September.
To put that into context, the World Travel and Tourism Council expects the sector to rise from 16.1% of GDP this year to 17.3% by 2018 – equivalent to US$39.5bn and to account for one in every seven jobs. Export earnings from foreign visitors are expected to generate US$12.9bn this year, rising to over $20bn in ten years’ time.
Recently released central bank figures show that Egypt recorded a balance of payments surplus of $5.4 billion in the year up to June - up from $5.2 billion a year earlier; and net services and transfer revenue from tourism jumped 32.3 percent to $10.8 billion, whilst revenue from the Suez Canal rose 23.6 percent to $5.2 billion due to an increase in shipping through the waterway and an increase in tonnage.
In a separate report entitled “Egypt Tourism Sector Analysis”, recently compiled by industry research firm RNCOS, it estimates that Russia, Germany, the UK and Italy are the most important jumping off points for visitors to Egypt, with the UK expected soon to outpace Germany, acquiring second rank after Russia in terms of tourist arrivals.
With Egypt targeting to lure around 14 million tourists by the end of 2011, the report estimates that the country needs to build 240,000 hotel rooms by then and that this will require an annual investment of over US$1 Billion. This represents a huge opportunity for infrastructure developers, particularly hotel groups.
No wonder, then that property companies such as Emaar Misr – a wholly-owned subsidiary of the UAE’s Emaar Properties with a collective presence in over 36 markets spanning the Middle East, North Africa, Pan-Asia, Europe and North America - continue to pour so much capital into the country’s tourism infrastructure.
Emaar Misr is one of the largest investors in Egyptian real estate with an investment portfolio of US$5.54bn, and is developing four key projects: the US$2.1bn Uptown Cairo standing at the highest point of downtown Cairo - Mukattam; the US$1.74bn Marassi, tourist and residential destination spanning 1,544 acres at Sidi Abdul Rahman; the US$1bn residential community located at the fifth district New Cairo City; and the US$700m commercial cum residential development on the Cairo - Alexandria desert road which also features the largest outdoor shopping and entertainment destinations in the country - Cairo Gate
Even as construction of the master-planned Marassi resort project continues on an accelerated schedule, Emaar Misr totally revamped the historic Alamein Hotel in record time, giving the local economy a major boost. The 50-year-old Alamein Hotel has great social significance and is the first beachfront hospitality project in the region. With Emaar re-opening the hotel with a facelift, there has been a further surge in visitor inflow to the region, which has easy proximity to historic sites and offers residents the choice of desert safari, eco-tourism and diving pursuits. Work on the project is ongoing with site grading completed and the construction of the beach clubhouse - the first of its kind in the region - progressing. The 6.25 million sq metre gated community features premier leisure amenities including a world-class beach resort, a vibrant town centre, marina, golf course and hotels set amidst lush greenery and lagoons.