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Egypt tourism up 5% in early 2024 despite Gaza conflict

Visitors enjoy the Karnak Temples; the government hopes to entice 30 million tourists to Egypt a year by 2030 tourism egypt Sandy Gamal/Creative Commons
Visitors enjoy the Karnak Temples; the government hopes to entice 30 million tourists to Egypt a year by 2030
  • Tourism to Egypt defies expectations
  • Bookings drop 80% in south Sinai
  • Hotel occupancy up across the country

The number of tourists visiting Egypt increased by five percent year on year in the first 40 days of 2024, according to Egypt’s tourism minister, Ahmed Issa.

The announcement came after reports in January that visitor numbers for the whole of 2023 reached a record high of 14.9 million, just shy of the 15 million target the ministry had set. 

Despite concerns that the war in Gaza and the perception of regional instability would inflict a blow on the number of inbound tourists, tourism brought in an all-time high of $15 billion in revenues, providing a key source of hard currency for a country in the grip of a dollar shortage.

Initial reports in the weeks following October 7 suggested that hotel bookings in south Sinai, the most popular Egyptian destination for tourists, dropped by 80 percent, with many would-be visitors cancelling their trips in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza. 

This loss now appears to have been absorbed by rising hotel occupancy rates across the country as part of Egypt’s 2030 plan to more than double tourism to 30 million visitors a year by 2030.

Mohamed Kaoud, a hospitality consultant and associate director at Colliers International, said he was not surprised to see an increase in visitor numbers. Despite fears that the war in Gaza would deter visitors to Egypt, Kaoud expressed confidence that tourists to Egypt were generally reassured of its safety.

Kaoud said that this was not the case for all markets. Taba, a Red Sea resort on the border with Israel that caters almost exclusively to Israeli tourists, has seen hotel occupancy rates plummet to around one percent, he said.The number of Israeli visitors to south Sinai, which reached almost 700,000 in 2022, was likely to remain severely depressed for the foreseeable future.

Investment drive

The reported overall increase in visitor numbers comes after a big push by the tourism ministry to boost inbound tourism. Ahmed Issa, a former banker who took over the ministry in August 2022, has overseen various initiatives including easing tourist visa restrictions for nationals of countries including China, Iran, India, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria and Israel. 

The government also introduced a multi-entry tourist visa valid for five years at a cost of $700.

The ministry has spearheaded an investment drive, developing tourism infrastructure and encouraging multinational hotel operators in Egypt to increase capacity. 

A report by the consultancy company JLL said that an additional 150 hotel keys were added to the market in 2023 and predicted an increase of 1,500 in 2024.

Connections to Egypt have also improved, with budget airlines such as Air Cairo and Wizz Air expanding their operations. In August, the UK-based airline EasyJet began operating flights to Cairo for the first time.

Kaoud said that Colliers predicts visitor numbers will continue to climb, with hotel occupancy rates in Cairo increasing from 70 percent to 73 percent this year. “From what I personally see, I’m very optimistic,” he said. Referring to the 30 million target for 2030 he said: “if things go as they are at the moment, they will get to this level.”

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