Mumbai: The Egyptian National Tourism Office conducted its annual workshop for travel trade partners in India across Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Kochi, from July 23 to 27.

The Egyptian delegation had 14 companies – DMCs, a hotel (Sheraton Soma Bay Resort) for the first time, and Egypt Air. The programme was aimed at educating travel trade partners about the uniqueness and variety Egypt offers visitors.

Egyptian National Tourism Office held a four-city annual workshop for travel trade partners across Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Kochi.

The workshop had two distinct segments: A MICE workshop involving MICE experts and corporate companies from India and Egyptian Tourism and DMCs, and the film workshop which saw the film and entertainment producers of India in conversation with officials from Egyptian Tourism.

Egyptian Tourism skipped Delhi this time from the workshop schedule, primarily because air connectivity challenges between Delhi and Cairo remained unresolved. Instead, Kochi made it to the schedule, thanks to the huge Catholic Christian population there, which is an ideal target for the Holy Family Footsteps Egypt wants to market aggressively.

Egypt has identified 25 key spots – all with churches or monasteries. At least six nights are needed to visit all the spots of the Holy Family Footsteps. Hence, this is a standalone itinerary.

Traditionally, Egypt has been a short stopover for Christians travelling to Israel and Jordan. Pilgrims spend two nights at most at Sharm El Sheikh (St. Catherine’s Monastery and Mount Sinai) and another two at Pyramids in Cairo. In late 2017, Pope Francis recognised Egypt as an Official Roman Catholic Pilgrimage Site – a shot in the arm for the Holy Family Footsteps.
Egyptian Tourism predicts that 20 per cent of the world’s 2.2 billion Christians will visit Egypt. Currently, Christian pilgrimages account for a mere 3 per cent of FTAs to Egypt.

Hosting the programme, Ismail Amer, Regional Director and Tourism Counsellor, Egyptian Tourism, said, “In 2017, we received 1,03,000 Indian travellers, which is 30 per cent more than in 2016. At this rate, we should be able to better our performance in 2010 and touch 1,35,000 – 1,40,000 Indian visitors.”

The annual workshop saw 450 trade partners from the Indian fraternity attending (150 in Mumbai and 100 plus in the other three cities). “Hotels are starting to look at India and this is a good sign. Earlier, they were not very interested to participate in this workshop as the India market was not looking at MICE in Egypt.” Sheraton Soma Bay is a new beach resort which can host weddings and MICE for up to 1000 pax comfortably.

Egyptian Tourism is undertaking an e-learning program in India to educate the trade on MICE and Film Tourism. “The biggest attraction for holding a MICE event in Egypt is that you can conduct some parts of it in a world-class hotel or resort and some outside in unique backdrops like beach, pyramids, palaces or forts – offering a spectacular experience to the guests.”

Egypt sees huge prospects for film tourism from India. A few shots of the Bollywood film Aiyaary were shot in Egypt. “We have two levels of approaching Bollywood. First one is if the story does not have Egypt as the central backdrop. If it is just a location which is not integral to the script, then we offer no subsidies or sponsorship. But our rates are so competitive, be it hotel tariff or logistics hire. We are at one-fifth the price compared to Europe. So a producer does not have to pay more and then get rebates like in Europe. Rather, you pay much less and even without rebate it is still very cost effective. If the script features Egypt as a fun, romantic and safe destination in the film, then we are very happy to support such projects.”

Egypt has post production facilities, production equipment rentals and experienced line producers. The film production industry in Egypt started in 1907.
The African nation has extended the e-Visa program to 25 countries and India is not part of that list as on date.

However, Indian groups (more than 10 pax) enjoy visa on arrival. Indian FITs can apply by post and there is no need to show up in person for an interview. Single entry visa of 30 days’ duration costs Rs. 1900 from India and visa on arrival is charged $25. Direct air connectivity has been an issue for some time now with the long-sought Delhi-Cairo direct flight yet to materialise.

Egypt Air connects Mumbai and Cairo direct (6 hours) while Middle East fliers connect Cairo via their respective hubs: Air Arabia, Oman Air, Gulf Air, Emirates, Etihad, Kuwait Airways and Al Jazeera. Air India flies via code share with Egypt Air (Mumbai).

Egypt has around 2,50,000 classified hotel rooms. “Indians stay for around seven nights, which is very good”, says Amer. “Earlier, it was 5.2 nights and has grown because we introduced a new product – Seaside Tour. Till recently Egypt had only two products: Classic Tour (spend a few days in Cairo visiting the museums, pyramids, sphinx; take a short excursion to Alexandria; fly to Luxor and take the night cruise (4N) on Nile to Aswan and then fly back to Cairo) and Pilgrimage Tour. Now we have created a mix of Classic and Seaside Tours – arrive in Cairo, stay for few days and fly to Aswan, take the night cruise (3N) on Nile to Luxor and then drive 3.5 hour to Hurghada, a city on the Red Sea coast (ideal for watersports) and fly back to Cairo after two days.”

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