New Discoveries

There's nothing ancient about Egypt's tourism

By: Norman Sklarewitz

Of all the major tourism destinations, few can match Egypt. For most American visitors, it represents the essence of international travel. In and around Cairo are such outstanding attractions as the Giza Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Egyptian Museum; in Luxor the awesome temples and tombs in the Valley of the Kings, the spectacular Abu Simbel temples of Ramses II, the Karnak Temples and the list goes on.

Little wonder that a tour to Egypt ranks among many clients as the proverbial “trip of a lifetime.” Just the same, savvy agents are growing aware that the country that they’ve successfully sold over the years is not sitting on its laurels. Instead, this destination’s infrastructure is seeing constant additions, expansions and upgrades. Among other things, this means that Egypt offers agents repeat business opportunities while remaining a premier destination for first-timers.

“We are improving the quality of our product from all angles from the level of services and the quality of accommodations to entirely new attractions and activities,” said Omayma El Husseini, deputy director of the Egyptian Tourist Authority in New York City.

Fueling all this activity is the Egyptian government’s policy of privatizing much of the tourism industry. As a result, private companies and individuals see Egypt’s tourism industry as a prime opportunity for investment. Their funding is seen in new beach resorts along the Mediterranean Sea, in golf courses, Red Sea dive centers and other recreational facilities.

“Our tourism ministry provides only guidelines,” said El Husseini. “The private sector executes their projects.”

This effort is clearly seen along Egypt’s northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. There a host of new beach resorts have opened with more coming on line all the time. Admittedly, the market for these properties is primarily Europeans who see Egypt as an extremely attractive and relatively nearby holiday getaway. Still, for the younger, mid-market American, these same resorts can be an attractive side trip after intensive cultural touring.

The Egyptian Tourist Authority notes that there are some 280 miles of coastline between the city of Alexandria and the Libyan border in the west. Just a year ago, direct air service between Europe and this coast began at two airports Marsa Matrouh and El Alamein.

While Cairo offers clients a wide range of four- and five-star hotels, it’s of significance that less well-known areas of the country now also offer top-quality accommodations. In Sharm El Sheikh on the Red Sea, the two-year-old Four Seasons Resort offers 136 rooms of which 27 are suites. The property occupies more than 1.5 million acres that includes a private white-sand beach stretching 328 feet to the sea. A jetty provides access for deep-water snorkeling, while dozens of dive centers provide equipment and guides for scuba expeditions through beautiful coral reefs. The Four Seasons also has two properties in Cairo, and they have “development plans” for Alexandria.

Another top-of-the-line property in Sharm El Sheikh is the Ritz-Carlton Club with 307 guestrooms, including 48 suites and 25 Ritz-Carlton Club rooms. The emphasis here is also on recreation and well being, reflected in a spa and fitness center and even an Arabian massage tent.

The Ritz is also a 15-minute drive from Naama Bay, popular for night life, bazaars and casinos. Ninety minutes away by boat is the Ras Mohamed National Park with a wealth of underwater treasures including shipwrecks.

The Egyptian government is funding major projects that directly support tourism. Of particular importance to the U.S. visitor is the expansion of Cairo International Airport. Terminal Three is currently under construction and scheduled for completion late next year. It will boast the latest passenger-handling facilities and services and will double CAI’s capacity. The T-3 will be connected by a bridge to the existing Terminal Two, now known as the New Airport.

The Luxor Airport is also undergoing a $50 million upgrade. Its fully air-conditioned terminal building was opened last year.


Egyptian Tourist Authority
630 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2305
New York, NY 10111
212-332-2570; 877-773-4978



Indicative of the interest in Egypt is the addition of new escorted tour programs by major West Coast operators. Brendan Worldwide Vacations, for example, is introducing a new Majesty of Egypt deluxe tour this year. Departures will be every second week starting Oct. 10.

Globus is offering more than 150 departure dates for its three Egypt programs, an all-time record according to Steve Born, vice president marketing.
“Year to year we’ve been seeing at least an annual 10 percent increase in the number of departures reflecting the continuing rise in popularity in Egypt travel,” he said.
One of the company’s most popular products is the nine-day Egypt: Early Civilizations and Christianity. In addition, the company offers the 10-day Egyptian Splendor tour and cruise program and the 12-day Grand Tour of Egypt tour and cruise program.