Mohab Ghali, Hilton vice president operations Egypt and North Africa, talks to Hotel News Middle East about why we should be watching the market in Egypt…
Please give us a brief overview of the market in Egypt in your words? We have a very positive view on the Egyptian market. 2017 was a great year for Hilton in the country, and for the country as a whole, and 2018 has started strongly. In addition to officially opening the Hilton Cairo Heliopolis in February, and announcing a Waldorf Astoria hotel to follow, we also announced the signing of the DoubleTree by Hilton Mangroovy El Gouna Resort. We now have 17 hotels open across the country, and an additional eight in our development pipeline.
Egypt saw some 730,000 tourists in February this year, which is a 36% year on year increase* on what was already a good performance in 2017. So, the year has started well and we expect to see continued growth throughout the rest of the year.
Egypt is uniquely placed for visitors to experience some of the most wonderful history and heritage anywhere in the world with the Pyramids, the temples at Luxor and Aswan, and some of the best beaches and dive locations in the world. It really does have something for everyone.
Tourism and economy are both getting better which also impacts hospitality, in addition, the devaluation of the Egyptian pound has meant that the country is even better for international guests visiting the country. Egypt certainly seems to be bouncing back and the numbers really do speak for themselves.
What are they key opportunities and challenges hotels in that region will face throughout 2018 and how will these play out? We certainly see the return of Russian flights this month into the country as a great opportunity. Russia has long been a key market for Egypt and these flights open up markets in the Far East and Eastern Europe. The economic stability seen in the country is also very good news which we expect will help to create numerous opportunities in attracting business to the tourism sector across the country.
I think the challenge now lies to a degree in hotels and the industry gearing up for the anticipated very high increase in tourism numbers into the country, where companies can now further develop and invest in the renovations of hotels, trainings of team members and quality of the products and services that they offer.
What is the national tourism organisation doing at the moment to support the hotel industry? The national tourism organisation is certainly working hard to develop new marketing campaigns to position and promote Egypt in international markets, they have also been instrumental in the return of Russian flights to Egypt which is a huge opportunity. This is in addition to the development and renovation works in some key tourism locations and the building of the new Grand Egyptian Museum which will open this year.
What are the key developments in Egypt that hoteliers are looking forward to this year? We are hoping to see Egypt launch the e-visa, and improved facilitation for pre-arrival visa procedures, this will encourage investors and make their decisions easier to come to Egypt. We would of course also like to see new charter flights and cruises into the country, and exploring some new destinations.
We also need to focus now on improving and investing in the infrastructure in terms of hotel renovations, and the quality of the products and the services that we offer in general in the country, especially improving the skills of employees in dealing with international tourists. At Hilton we spend a great deal of time and money on this, and believe it is key to a successful tourist industry.
* According to Tourism Ministry data carried by Al Shorouk