Thank you so much Mrs. Kamel for making the time for sharing your vision and insights with us today.
We would like to start by asking you how would you describe this New Modern Egypt that is brewing anew on daily basis, this new image of Egypt that is being built to Rise in Leadership not only at African level but potentially at a global stage.
First of all allow me to thank you very much, for allowing me to participate in the Egypt’s content that is being developed under the frame of the upcoming Forum Africa CIAN & L’Opinion, such very respectable associations.
Let me explain that I joined the Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities back in April last year, coming from the private sector. And I was very lucky, because at that time, there was a new renaissance when it came to the file of tourism within the Government.
When COVID hit in March 2020 and the entire world went in lockdown, it was the perfect timing for Egypt to have a look at tourism and to explore the challenges and opportunities that will take place within the new normal, which is the post COVID with all its dynamics.
What the Government did back then was inspiring…they committed to bringing back tourism and that’s exactly what happened in July of 2020: We opened the doors to tourists, and we never closed since then. We had regulations that were both firm and flexible enough to allow people to enter, but at the same time maintaining the health and safety of both our guests and our local employees.
Towards the beginning of 2021, The Egyptian Government’s Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities represented in the ETA, we delegated a Canadian British Consortium to develop a strategy for tourism.
Basically, we wanted to really explore what should the strategy be in 2021, moving forward in the post COVID. This consortium conducted a very in-depth research that was based on both local stakeholders of tourism in Egypt, including chambers, tourism companies, representations from the government, representation from the parliament, so all the stakeholders that have a say in tourism, plus 12.000 interviews from the 12 key markets of tourists that come to Egypt, plus 85 million social media posts were reviewed.
So as you can see, it was a very elaborated research. And the results came back in August and were very inspiring because they reflected on the fact that Egypt does not need awareness, because everybody knows Egypt, it needs to reflect on its New Contemporary Futuristic Brand.
And that was the key idea: how can we reintroduce Egypt as a young, alive, dynamic country that is full of potential and at the same time taking into consideration the respect that we have for our ancestors, as a backdrop to our message.
So although the previous narrative was very much reflective on old, ancient Egypt, the new narrative is keeping that heritage as a backdrop, but also emphasizing the new Egypt. So that was a key pillar in our strategy. The second pillar is, how can we reflect on the fact that Tourism and Antiquities have become one unique entity? You know, we had them as different independent ministries before and now we have one ministry for both. So how can we show this integration, reflect it in new tourism products that include both components, and the third factor is, how can we engage the private sector in the implementation and the execution of the tourism strategy so you no longer alienate the private sector: you need to ally, participate and create new products with the private sector.
Given those three pillars, a very interesting plan was developed, which is basically to have an events calendar. When you have events, you’re giving a message of safety, of youth, of creativity, of all the things that we had been reflecting upon. And since then, we have been supporting the private sector creating events that have global exposure and would engage the private sector, the local community and the international world as well, and we have a lined-up of all of those: we have the Sphinx Avenue, we have the Forever is Now event at the Pyramids, we have several marathons in the Pyramids, in Saqqara, in Luxor,
We support more than ever our cultural festivities, they’ve always been there, but now we have a legitimate excuse to support those festivals even more and create something that has global reach and exposure. Like the Sun alignment festival, that occurs every year when the sun illuminates King Ramses II’s face in Aswan’s Abu Simbel temple, and this year it occurred on a very special date because it was the 22nd of February the 02, of 2022, so we created a very nice event to celebrate this date and to send the world a message of peace and love.
We want to have recurring events that are there to show our alive spirits and to celebrate key messages like peace, love, harmony, integration, and we feel that Egypt is one of the best countries that can reflect on those messages to the world.
After all, civilization is not about monuments only. It’s about what Egypt represents and what is able to give to the world. And the more generous you are the more you are considered a true civilization, and this is a key message we want to want to emphasize in the next few years.
Very beautiful indeed, a much needed message in the world nowadays and also very reflective of the true essence of the Egyptians, your wonderful sense of humor and your admirable resilience. This year we will also have the COP27, so it is going to be quite a year for Egypt…
Indeed. For COP27 that will take place in November in Sharm el Sheikh, our President has given a decree, a decision that Sharm el Sheikh will become the Green, and at the Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities we have emphasized that all our hotels, restaurants, diving centers, they need to apply Green regulations and they need to acquire Green certificates, be it local or international, but they need to initiate their intention to actually start the roadmap of becoming Green.
In relation to the African Continent, what is the role that you envision for Egypt?
Egypt is in the African continent, and we have long standing relationships with all African countries since the beginning of time.
And I think this file has been cascaded to different parties and different stakeholders. From a tourism point of view, we cannot identify Africa alone from the rest of the world, we welcome everyone equally: Europe, Africa, the Middle East…to us, as a country with so much content and heritage, it is impossible not to share it with the entire world, and we welcome everyone in our country, without discrimination.
We have immense respect for the African heritage and culture, they are always going to be welcomed in our country to enjoy all that Egypt has to offer.
With all those Events taking place plus the COP27 coming up, Egypt will keep dazzling the world this year with its majesty…
There is an obvious Egyptomania going on yes, and I think that’s because our governments our President was very keen on really supporting this file.
See when you speak tourism, you are speaking experience, not just a hotel or just a beach or just a museum, and the experience starts from the minute the tourist hits our ground at the airport, and it goes on until he hails for a cab, or walks in the streets or, if he gets unwell, call the doctor or the hospital. So the experience is not just a tourism experience, it’s a full experience that integrates different aspects of our country that includes transportation, culture, health, youth, security, environment…
There is a strategic committee that has been created in the government that reports directly to the Prime Minister. And this strategic committee includes tourism, transportation, culture, youth a lot of key pillars in the government. They all work on the tourism file, because with a population of more than 100 million citizens, you really need everybody to be engaged, you really need several stakeholders to realize that this file is so important in terms of employment, in terms of GDP, in terms of being such a big factor in the Egyptian economy, and therefore you cannot hold just one entity responsible, being Tourism such a very strategic file.
And that is why the Prime Minister is ensuring that everyone, including us as Ministry, is on top of those key factors, and even our minister himself gets so involved. He has this dynamic nature that encompasses a lot of things. He created my position. This position was never there, and he had the vision to engage someone from the private sector and he leaves a very active team that is fast paced, very digitized, very conscious, very youthful, and I see the minister responding to the social media himself, taking snapshots and following up personally on citizens’ comments, complaints, suggestions and observations, which shows you how much we are hands on, how much we are keen on putting forth a more contemporary strategy in the way we approach things.
Within this strategy, due to your own background as a very relevant PR professional with a very extensive portfolio of successful campaigns, events, and also your own agency, you also play a very strategic role as key, or door, or bridge between the government and the private sector
Yes, the idea that the government has this vision and the minister implemented it, of getting calibers, – and of course I had to resign from my executive position in my previous company, to fulfill such a full time commitment – and since I speak both languages: the language of the private sector, and I understand the language of the government. So I try as much as possible to be the link between the two and to support the private sector as much as we can because these are the people who have the capacity, the funds and the ability to do things. And we are there to support them, to be on their side whenever there’s a new launch, whenever there is a new event. We want to show that we are there for our partners, and we’re willing to give them the necessary support so that they can also excel in doing what they do.
Another very interesting point is that, in the Tourism sector, you are working not only on the diversification of the tourism offer, but also of the markets, boosting Egypt as a great tourism destination for the Egyptians themselves, and for the rest of the Arab countries.
Indeed. During COVID, whenever there was a lockdown, nobody was able to travel in or out, so naturally we wanted to maximize the potential of local tourism, that has always been there, but it was magnified during the COVID time. We are keen on not just welcoming our national local visitors but also to encourage them to become ambassadors for their own country, by treating the tourists well giving them the necessary information, to show them support and we are going to have our own campaigns dedicated to this message: that every Egyptian is not only our ambassador outside, but also within his own country.
Ambassadors in terms of civil civilization, in terms of helping with what the tourist needs to see and know. And the people are such an important ingredient in the experience, we need to be part of the positive story that the tourist is going to share when he goes back home.
And it’s probably going to be a message relatively easy to transmit, because hospitality is natural in the Egyptian DNA…
Yes, exactly. Hospitality has always been part of Egypt. We have narrators, yes, we document stories, we write them on our walls. As storytellers and communicators, Egyptians have always been able to excel in art and culture and of course also in sciences during older times. We need to be consistent. It’s not something that we treat as a luxury. It is something that is a mandate to us, a soft mandate that resonates in our consciousness and, and becomes part of our people to do it, and enjoy it, and realize that it’s such a blessing to have such a beautiful country that holds so much love and respect of people from all over the world.
Mrs. Kamel, since the interview is going to be published under the contents dedicated to the Forum Africa CIAN & L’Opinion 2022 to be held next June 23rd. in Paris, it would be nice to send a message to France itself as one of the main tourism markets naturally for Egypt, and also to the rest of Africa about this new direction and strategy that the Egypt industry is undertaking.
France and Egypt have a very long lasting relationship, both in business, in culture and heritage.
The history speaks for itself and we would very much love to see more French people coming to Egypt not just for business, but also to engage in our events and to be able to enjoy our new approach to things. We have much fascination for the French culture, and with their amazing tastes, France is such a beautiful country and is always going to be symbolic of so much beauty and so much class. And we see so much engagement and we would love to see more of that in 2022 given our exciting agenda happening in Egypt this year.
In relation to all countries in Africa, there is still so much potential for collaboration both in terms of business and of hospitality, and this untapped potential is going to be an aspiration that we all are very much looking forward to.
Thank You Very Much Mrs. Kamel
February 23rd. 2022
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