Five Realities about Selling Travel to Egypt
You are in an industry designed to bring cultures together through travel. As travel agents, it is your job to educate yourself on different destinations around the world, understand the facts, and advise your clients, so that they are making an informed decision. If you have clients interested in going to Egypt, this article will help you educate yourself about this destination. As always, with any destination you are selling, checking travel advisory reports should be part of the to-do list.
By Tharwat Abouraya, CTIE
I strongly believe that only informed professional travel agents/sellers can help revive Egyptian tourism. No one can do it better than you by refreshing your Egyptian destination knowledge, including the current true state of domestic affairs and the vast and varied tourist attractions.
In 2017, Bloomberg said Egypt has “shed its years of social and political unrest” and makes the top 20 list of 2017 travel destinations. The latest United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report revealed that Egypt was one of the world’s fast-growing tourist destinations for 2017.
Geopolitical situation. The first reality about selling travel to Egypt is its geography, which is best explained in the map below.
- Egypt borders Libya to the west, the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, and Sudan to the south. The River Nile runs 4,258 miles from the mountains of Burundi to its famed and fertile delta fan, where Egypt meets the Mediterranean Sea.
- The Western Desert of Egypt is an area of the Sahara, west of the river Nile, up to the Libyan border, and south from the Mediterranean Sea to the border with Sudan. The Eastern Desert, on the other hand, extends east from the Nile to Red Sea.
- More than 98% of Egypt’s land is as safe as the United States and Northern and Western Europe – and this is the report from the newest Department of State’s travel warning program. In fact, the State Department in 2017 issued Christmas travel warnings for all of Europe – but none for Egypt.
Example: The driving distance from the troubled Rafah area (red on the map) to Abu Simbel Temple is about 17 hours by car. And to Cairo, about five hours. Travel Weekly reported that American travelers are becoming more hardened to frightening headlines. “For better or for worse, there is a resilience about the American traveler that we haven’t seen in a long time,” Tauck’s president Jennifer Tombaugh said. “I think we’re sort of redefining what uncertainty means, and I’m not quite sure if that word even resonates for people even more. I think they’re saying, ‘The world is crazy. Life is short. Let’s go out and explore.’”
Coastlines. Egypt has coastlines on the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. The consistent sunshine, as well as white sand beaches and pristine coral reefs are currently major attractions for scuba divers and sun worshippers. The “Red Sea Riviera” along the Gulf of Aqaba and Gulf of Suez is a major tourist destination.
- Winter beaches on the Red Sea include Southern Sinai. Summer resorts are on the northern and western Mediterranean coasts of Egypt, including Alexandria.
- There is a pilgrimage appeal to the Red Sea as well. Crossing of the Red Sea is part of the Biblical narrative of the escape of the Israelites, led by Moses. This story also is mentioned in the Quran.
Climate and weather. Throughout Egypt, days are commonly warm or hot, and nights are cool. Egypt has only two seasons: a mild winter from November to April and a hot summer from May to October. Sightseeing starts very early in the morning to avoid the heat, especially in Luxor, Aswan and the Sinai mountains. Sandstorms are rather unpredictable. They generally occur in March/April, but that doesn’t mean that Cairo or Luxor or Sharm El Sheikh or wherever will automatically be hit by one during that time. Generally, they are short-lasting (like a thunderstorm), but sometimes they are more extensive. I wouldn’t let the threat of a sandstorm be a deciding factor for visiting Egypt. Just let the client be prepared.
- Share your knowledge of Egypt as a prime travel destination with your awareness of new attractions:
- The Grand Egyptian Museum is scheduled to open in mid-2018 to provide a new display of Egyptian antiquities near the Giza pyramids. It is expected to be the largest archaeological museum in the world, displaying the full Tutankhamun collection.
- A new administrative capital is expected to open in mid-2018 east of Cairo. Another growing suburb called New Cairo already is home to the beautiful and expansive campus of the American University of Cairo (AUC).
- Egypt has prioritized road building since 2014. The new road networks are reportedly making up about 20% of all the roads in Egypt.
- In 2017, Pope Francis embraced the Holy Family’s journey in Egypt as an official Christian pilgrimage. Reviving the path of the Holy Family’s journey has the potential to attract large numbers of Christian tourists to Egypt.
- Giza is where you find the most famous three great pyramids and the Sphinx, but Egypt actually has more than 135 pyramids.
- In Cairo, you find the National Museum of Antiquities as well as important and beautiful Islamic and ancient Christian sites.
- Luxor houses more than one-third of the world’s open-air antiquities, including Luxor and Karnak Temples as well as the Valley of the Kings and Queens, King Tut’s tomb and Queen Hatshepsut’s (the second female pharaoh after Sobekneferu) temple.
- Don’t forget the Western desert discovery of Mansourasaurus shahinae, a newly discovered dinosaur in Egypt that enables us to refer not only to Ancient Egyptian history going back 7,000 years but also to native inhabitants who were there 80 million years earlier!
- Suggested itineraries for an Egyptian tour would be nine nights. It is important to arrange for arrival and pre-departure stays in Cairo for best international air travel. Example: nights 1-2 Cairo-Giza, nights 3-6 Luxor, nights 7-8 Aswan and night 9 Cairo. Or nights 3-8 Nile floating hotel/cruise from Luxor to Aswan.
Multiple ways to visit Egypt. Travelers can visit Egypt via air, on board cruise ships at Alexandria or thru the Suez Canal to the Red Sea ports or sailing down and up the River Nile aboard floating hotels. Travelers can visit individually or in large or small groups. Egypt offers sleeping car trains and desert safaris as well.
Travel to Egypt is getting better, and there is progress. Be part of doing good while doing well. Promote and sell foreign independent tours and small groups, earn commissions/markups on net tours and support Egyptian tour operators and families making their living from tourism.
Aldous Huxley said, “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” It’s time to find out for yourself!
This week’s Hot Tip Tuesday was written by Tharwat Abouraya, CTIE, president of Travel Business CPR-Washington, D.C.