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Egypt’s five-year tourist visa meets an uncertain reaction

Couple at Pyramids in Egypt Unsplash/Mike Swigunski
The five-year visa is intended to help double Egyptian tourism numbers in five years
  • Egypt wants to grow tourist arrivals to 30 million per year by 2028
  • Tourism seen as key driver of the country’s economic recovery 
  • Multiple entry visa too expensive to have broad appeal, analysts say

Egyptian tourism will get a boost from a five-year tourist visa available for $700, the country’s government hopes. The visa has been announced as part of a national strategy to more than double tourist numbers over the next five years. 

Announcing the new visa at a press conference on Monday, Egyptian minister of tourism and antiquities Ahmed Issa said that the move is “a step in the right direction” to increasing inbound tourism to 30 million visits a year by 2028.

Many in Egypt’s tourism industry have welcomed the move.

Ahmed Morsi, director of sales at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, said that while too little is yet known about the scheme to predict its impact, it could go some way to increasing hotel room occupancy and boosting the Egyptian economy. 

“It means that more people will come to Egypt and see more opportunities for investment and create more money for the economy,” he told AGBI. “And this means they will book more hotel rooms.”

But analysts are sceptical about whether the new scheme will do much to promote tourism.

“This, to me, is a business visa,” said Colliers International’s Egypt director Karim Helal. “It’s too expensive for tourists.

“I think it is more suitable for businessmen who come frequently to Egypt. I don’t see regular tourists paying $700 for multiple entries when they will only come a few times a year.” 

Helal said that the ministry should instead build on Egypt’s advantages as “an inexpensive country. That’s one of its attractions.”

Issa said he is confident in Egypt’s ability to attract a record 15 million tourists this year. Despite a year-on-year decline in tourists from Russia and Ukraine in January and February, by 80 percent and 40 percent respectively, overall Egyptian tourism in those months was 30 percent higher than in 2022. 

“Even with the decrease in our top two tourist sources, these results indicate that we will be able to reach or surpass our goal for 2023,” he said.

Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
The ministry is making it easier for tourists to buy visas on arrival. Picture: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Easier arrivals

Alongside the multi-year visa scheme, the ministry said it is also making it easier for tourists to buy visas on arrival, with 180 nationalities now eligible for a $25 single-entry visa when they arrive in Egypt.

Issa said this scheme will be extended to Chinese tourists and Indian citizens living in the Gulf. Colliers’ Helal called this “a good move”.

The ministry has also hinted that it will try to make entry easier for visitors from countries from which Egypt receives fewer tourists.

On Tuesday, the ministry extended the $25 single-entry visa to Iranian citizens in South Sinai, telling Reuters: “We will evaluate the experience of their arrival in South Sinai as a first step, and building on that, we’ll determine if they will be admitted in other places.”

However, given the number of nationalities that can now obtain the $25 single-entry visa, deputy director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy Timothy Kaldas, said the new five-year visa “is far more likely to be used as a vehicle for informal residency” by foreign nationals living in Egypt than for tourism. 

“It could be a quick way for the state to get an injection of dollars from a portion of its medium- to long-term foreign residents who will find the offer convenient,” he said.

Economic woes

The announcement coincides with an ongoing dollar shortage and economic turmoil in Egypt. The Egyptian pound has lost almost half its value against the dollar in the past year. 

Earlier this month, the government announced that headline inflation had reached a five-and-a-half-year high of 30.9 percent, with core inflation at 40.26 percent. Egypt’s cabinet also downgraded GDP growth for the full year 2022/23 from 5.5 percent to 4.2 percent.

The government hopes the strategy to increase Egyptian tourism will boost these figures. Egypt recorded 11.7 million tourists last year, bringing in $9 billion worth of foreign currency.

The Tourism and Antiquities Ministry believes the numbers will continue to grow and surpass the record high of 2010, when 13.7 million tourists visited Egypt and the sector accounted for 13.9 percent of GDP.

In a press conference earlier this month, Issa said the national tourism strategy “aims to achieve annual growth rates ranging from 25 percent to 30 percent”. The ministry’s studies show that “there are 272 million potential tourists interested” in visiting Egypt, he added. 

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