Some Egyptian hotels only 3% full - Sofitel CEO

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Political unrest in Egypt has seen occupancy levels in some luxury hotels fall to as low as just 3 percent, the CEO of French hotel group Sofitel Worldwide has revealed.

“We have six hotels in Egypt which are impacted by the political turmoil, which is disappointing,” said hotel chief Robert Gaymer-Jones said.

“Cairo we were just beginning to get over the impact of the last revolution when another one happens. We were coming close to 80 percent...  [Now it is] down to 11 percent and Aswan is 3 percent... It is very difficult,” he added.

Before the onset of the recent unrest, which saw the removal of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 after three decades of rule and the ousting of democratically-elected president Mohamed Mursi, tourism accounted for around a tenth of Egypt’s GDP.

Millions of foreigners visit Egypt each year to laze on its beaches, tour ancient ruins and cruise along the Nile, but many countries, such as Germany and Belgium has advised its citizens to avoid its Red Sea resorts and Americans have been warned to keep away completely.

German tour operators Thomas Cook Germany and TUI Germany, part of Europe's largest tour operator TUI Travel, cancelled all trips to Egypt this summer.

Egypt attracted 14.7 million visitors in 2010, including 2.8 million Russians, 1.5 million Britons and 1.3 million Germans, according to OECD figures.

“The saddest thing of the whole Egyptian thing is the impact on our employees. I have several thousand employees in Egypt. To see these people, they want to work. I have a hotel with four or five hundred employees dealing with 20 guests. That is not right for them. They are not making tips and it doesn’t create any happiness for them,” Gaymer-Jones said.

The only saving grace for Egyptian hoteliers is that things seem to be on the upward swing, compared to this time last year. The June 2013 report of the EY Middle East Hotel Benchmark Survey, published this month, found the Egyptian Red Sea hospitality markets have continued to register the strongest growth in revenue per available room (RevPAR) – the industry standard for measuring growth. The popular areas of Hurghada and Sharm El Shaikh achieved RevPAR growth of 57.6 percent and 27.6 percent respectively over the same period in 2012.

In Cairo, occupancy levels were even up two percent to 36 percent and average room rates were up 10 percent year-on-year to $512.

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