Egypt to expand charter subsidies

EGYPT’S tourism authority is now considering subsidising charter flights to a larger number of destinations within the country as part of a concerted push to win back tourists—one that also has private operators embarking on their own promotional offers.

Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA) chairman Amr Elezabi said discussions were underway for a “double-touch initiative”, which would see charter incentives extended to include a second airport.

Under the current scheme, Egypt subsidises anywhere between 65 to 85 per cent of empty seats globally, but only for one stop per flight.

Elezabi added that ETA was also now “ready to discuss with serious tour operators in Asia” the possibility of subsidising charters due to the growing importance of the region. There are currently no charters from Asia to Egypt.

In order to speed overall recovery, Egyptian Tourism Federation director general Ayman Altaranissi said there were also plans to reintroduce charter subsidies for the Red Sea destinations of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, where demand in recent years had been strong enough to not need such incentives anymore.

“All these strategies will require a new budget for charter flights, which is now over 100 million Egyptian pounds (US$16.9 million) a year. We are now calculating how much this will add up to and this will probably be finalised very soon after ITB,” said Altaranissi.

At press time, Elezabi said the ETA was still “building on the actual strategy”, and the overall budget had not been finalised yet. TTG Asia ITB Berlin Daily, however, understands that on the cards are increasing cooperation with agents by dishing out brochure subsidies among others, stepping up marketing efforts using online and social media platforms, and attending all international travel fairs this year.

These would hopefully offer some respite to hotels and tour operators who have noted that demand had dropped by as much as half for this winter season and the upcoming summer season.

Sunrise Resorts & Cruises regional director of sales and marketing Ramy Darwish said prices had dropped by 25 to 35 per cent, and there were even talks that tour operators from the UK and Russia – top markets for Egypt – were planning to slash capacity for charters by half for summer. “We’re trying to persuade them to just reduce it by 10 to 20 per cent.”

Domina Coral Bay Sharm el-Sheikh regional director of revenue and reservation Abdel Atty Ragab said instead of dropping rates, the hotel was trying to dangle deals such as “pay six, get seven nights”.

African Express Travel president Nasr El Din Fadl said: “We cannot destroy the market price, but we’re offering promotions such as free dinners on night cruises.” He added he was planning to make personal visits to France and Russia to convince partners that Egypt was safe.

Egypt’s new tourism minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour makes his first international appearance at the country’s press conference today.

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