Mumbai: Sharing a symbiotic relationship, India and Egypt are mulling plans to twin their countries by exploring new vistas and avenues in tourism. With tourist arrivals from India ratcheting up, Egypt is going the whole hog to leverage its key destinations to tap into the tourism potential of outbound tourism from India. Here, Ismail Amer, Egyptian Tourism Counsellor, speaks about the Indian angle of Egypt’s tourism story.

Can you report on Egypt Tourism’s 2017 performance in terms of the number of international visitors and key markets?
Indeed, 2017 was a great opportunity for Egypt to regain its position as a leading tourist destination in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. The outcome was impressive as we achieved a global growth rate of about 55 per cent compared to 2016. We are happy to announce that the number of tourists from India in 2017 improved to touch the 2010 figures, which was the peak year before the revolution. The other feat we managed in the Indian market was increasing the average length of stay to 6-8 nights/tourist compared to 3-4 nights in 2016.

What are Egypt Tourism’s plans and priorities in 2018?
In 2018, we will continue with our efforts to strengthen our position as a glam destination for youth, single women and rich families. Over the last two years, we have touched all these segments. In 2018, we are going to evolve extensive promotional strategies to develop our market further. We are working closely with the national carrier Egypt Air to increase the frequency as well as the capacity, especially, after the expansion of its fleet by 45 new aircraft. Recently, Egypt Air replaced its narrow-body carrier, operating on the Cairo-Mumbai line, with the wide-body aircraft. It has added more high-end amenities and services and offers a personalised experience. We are also joining hands with other regional air carriers to secure bigger volume of seats between the two counties in view of the expected shifts in the demand.

Are you launching any new products/destinations/experiences?
We are planning to launch special packages for MICE, Christian pilgrimage, golf, weddings and film shooting. With its uniqueness and diversity, and the infrastructure boom, Egypt is an ideal alternative for many tourist segments from the Indian market.

How is the India market performing? How many Indians travelled to Egypt in 2017?
The Indian market has been doing well since 2015, and the figures have been positive. We still believe the market has a huge potential for us due to our proximity and the fact that we are very similar cultural-wise and product-wise. The 1,05,000 Indian tourists who visited Egypt in 2017 is just a start to the big boom predicted for the next five years.

Can you tell us about two travel experiences you would like to promote in Egypt which is not known to many tourists?
Destination wedding is a new product that we introduced. With the wide range of venues that can cater to around 3000 pax under the same roof, unique backdrops for pre-wedding shooting sessions, experienced DMCs and wedding planners, luxurious hotels and Nile cruises, visa facilitation for groups, Egypt is a perfect choice for upscale family weddings. Another product is golf. Egypt now has scores of golf courses of international standards.

The e-visa programme launched recently does not include India. Is there a plan to include India in 2018?
The e-visa programme has just been launched. The system is continuously evolving and new nations are being included. I believe India is going to be added very soon. However, I still feel that the visa processing is easy for Indians since it is provided on arrival for groups coming through a travel agency. For individuals, it could be obtained from the Egypt Embassy in New Delhi or the Egyptian Consulate in Mumbai within three working days.