By Laura Barnes
Business travel bounces back to end the year on a high despite earlier set-backs in 2005
Despite a number of terrorist attacks in the country in 2005, tourism in Egypt had steadily recovered by year-end, with hotels in Cairo being able to leverage on their business and corporate market.
The Semiramis InterContinental has a long-standing reputation in Cairo, and it reopened its doors in 1987 after the building was completely rebuilt. Located in the centre of the city, on the edge of the River Nile, its location has proven a huge draw, and, despite attacks in both Cairo and Sharm el Sheikh, occupancy levels averaged out at 80% for 2005 due to a high number of pan-Arab visitors, as well as investment in the area.
“Tourism is coming back to Egypt. The main issue is, of course, the terrorist attacks, and for a while it did prove hard to entice people back. But we are recovering,” said Michel Tourniaire, general manager, Semiramis InterContinental, and director of operations, Egypt, InterContinental Hotels Group.
“Unfortunately, the occurrence of attacks is becoming a way of life in the region, so you just have to continue as normal,” he added.
Fortunately, however, the effect on Cairo was a rather short-lived impact as a lot of visitors and businessmen are now returning to the capital, whether from the GCC or from outside the region.
The InterContinental Citystars in Cairo is also back on track to reach an average occupancy level of 45.65% for 2005, with estimates at the beginning of December measuring at 45.64%. One positive trend that InterContinental Citystars is noticing is an increase in MICE and business tourism entering Egypt’s capital city.
“The corporate business accounts for around 40% of our market. We have the facilities and the technology to accommodate international companies and conventions so there is even more incentive to come here,” commented Thierry Perrot, general manager, InterContinental Citystars.
Although the MICE and business market is becoming increasingly popular in Cairo, the leisure sector still holds a share of the market, with 31% of guests being leisure visitors at InterContinental Citystars.
The five-star InterContinental Citystars has a shopping mall attached to the hotel, which appeals to the leisure traveller. One of the first malls to have branded stores in Egypt, the Citystars shopping mall is proving popular with tourists, as well as residents of Egypt, with an average 80,000 people visiting the mall each day.
“We currently have around 500 shops and by October 2006, we expect to have an additional 1000 stores. You can buy branded goods in Cairo, but this is the first time that the stores are also branded. This is a major attraction for our hotel and really puts us on the map,” said Perrot.
Although both InterContinental Citystars and Semiramis InterContinental hotels are seeing the bulk of leisure tourism coming from western Europe, tourists from Russia, the CIS and, more recently, India are also coming to the capital city. And with a tourism drive underway from the Ministry of Tourism, Cairo is likely to see even more international tourists in the future, as well as becoming a meeting point for international companies in the Middle East.