As the dust settles on the recent unrest in Egypt, the country’s lucrative tourism industry is slowly returning to normal. Princess Cruises has reinstated port calls to Alexandria and Port Said on 18 sailings until November, and more operators are reporting a revival in consumer confidence.
“We’re seeing a bit of light at the end of the tunnel,” says Discover Egypt commercial director Philip Breckner. “We’re definitely seeing an upturn.”
Others reporting an upturn range from Kuoni to specialist operators such as Dragoman, which offers five adventure holidays in Egypt, like the 15-day Discover Egypt trip from £870, while a budget version of the trip, Explore Egypt, costs from £648.
Naturally though, these things don’t happen overnight. Visitor numbers remain down and some areas have been quicker to return than others. For example, while Mosaic Holidays has seen a recent upturn in the number of inquiries for Nile cruises, as well as tailor-made products, managing director Sabina Shaida notes that the recovery for ‘classical’ and ‘off-the-beaten-track’ options, such as the desert oases, remains slow.
“Consumers seem uncertain of the situation in Egypt, and this uncertainty is pushing them towards the Red Sea,” says Shaida. “We’ve seen savvy travellers at the higher end of the market taking advantage of extra value at hotels and enjoying the fact that resorts are quieter.”
As operators are quick to point out, the situation has created a massive opportunity for agents. One area is education: Hays Travel, Mosaic Holidays, Cosmos, Discover Egypt and Red Sea Holidays are just some of the operators to have run fam trips in the past few months.
“I’d say in terms of tourism it’s back to normal – better than normal, in fact, as they’re that bit more welcoming and it’s less crowded,” says Breckner. “There are fewer queues, so that’s a plus, and the Nile is more pleasant to travel on at the moment, with fewer boats and less fumes.”
Aside from launching hot deals, operators have been luring back punters by offering more flexible options. For example, Discover Egypt and Shearings are both offering cruise and stay packages and tour extensions.
Clients on Shearings’ eight-day cruise on Viking Princess can now extend their stay in Luxor (the five-star Sofitel Karnak), Cairo (the four-star Mercur Cairo le Sphinx) or El Gouna (the four-star Sultan Bey) for three, four or seven-night durations, with prices starting from £169, including hotel transfers.
To drive trade and reassure customers, One Stop Touring Shop was offering refundable tour deposits and discounts of up to 10% on a selection of ‘classic’ Egypt tours across its brands, as well as offering agents support and sales material for their shops and really pushing it on the website. OSTS sales director Paul Melinis feels it’s back on track, albeit with numbers down on 2010 levels.
“The bookings haven’t been flying in but the interest is back and people are booking again – and that’s coming from all six countries we operate in, not just the UK,” adds Melinis, who is also bullish about Egypt’s prospects for its 2011-12 winter-sun programme.
Some operators such as Discover Egypt, which took advantage of the spare capacity in March and April to run a series of fam trips, have responded to the recent troubles by increasing their programmes. For example, it is now using easyJet’s Luxor service in addition to its Monarch flights to offer more flexible start times for its Nile cruises, and has added a raft of Red Sea holiday options to resorts such as Hughada, Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab.
Its latest deal is a free seven-night stay in the four-star El Luxor hotel, on a B&B basis, when booking a Nile cruise on Viking Princess throughout June and some dates in July, with prices from just £699. Other new cruise options in its brochure include a new ship, the ‘five-star superior’ Royal Ruby.
Red Sea Holidays has seen bookings pick up for the lates market and early summer season on the back of new products and offers such as guaranteed child prices of £399 throughout the summer school holiday period. To increase agents’ confidence in selling the country, the operator has launched a new Tipto online training module, and agents qualify for 50% off its holidays if they’ve sold at least one.
Thomson and First Choice have launched a one-off brochure containing discounted Egypt breaks, with savings of up to £350 per couple on offer. To further drive Egypt sales, both brands are giving the destination a higher profile on their websites throughout May, while a summer TV advertising campaign will be backed by point of sale promotional material in their shops. And having sent out 90 agents to the country in March and April, more educationals are planned for the autumn.
New products at Cosmos Holidays, which features 10 properties in Sharm in its new Pricebeater brochure, include the Dreams Beach Resort, Um el Sid and Tiran Island Hotel, Montazah in Sharm el-Sheikh, and a choice of pre-bookable dive packages. Planet Holidays’ current deals include seven nights’ B&B at the five-star Mövenpick Resort & Spa in El Gouna for £619 departing June 15, including flights and transfers.
Both Longwood Holidays and Mosaic Holidays are offering $600 room credit at Four Seasons Sharm el-Sheikh for bookings of more than six nights taken before July 3. Prices with Mosaic lead in at £1,169 for seven nights’ B&B, including flights from Gatwick and transfers, for June departures.
Longwood has added five four and five-star Red Sea all-inclusive properties, bringing the total to 29. They comprise three family-friendly all-inclusive properties in Hurghada: Albatros Palace, Dana Beach Resort, and Alf Leila Wa Leila.
Early-booking offers include high-end hotels such as five-star properties the Oberoi Sahl Hasheesh in Hurghada from £550 in May for seven nights’ B&B, compared with a brochure price of £909, including flights from Manchester.
Sunvil Holidays has seven nights’ B&B at Antony’s Garden House, a 19th-century village inn at Episkopi, from £681 in August, including British Airways flights from
Gatwick and car hire.
Book it:sunvil.co.uk, 020 8758 4759
Olympic Holidays offers seven nights’ self-catering at Stavrolia Hotel Apartments on the outskirts of Ayia Napa from £505 per adult and £355 per child for travel in August, based on two adults and two children sharing a one-bedroom apartment that sleeps four. Price includes Fly Hellas flights from Manchester.
Book it:olympicholidays.com, 0844 499 4449
Prestige Holidays offers seven nights’ B&B in a junior suite at the InterContinental Aphrodite Hills Resort from £4,437 for two adults and two children (aged under six) for travel in August, including Monarch flights from Gatwick.
Book it:prestigeholidays.co.uk, 01425 480400
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