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Egypt is open for business, but Cairo should be avoided

The country had lost 90 per cent of business since the Arab Spring, but the elections are grounds for optimism.
Egypt – in the midst of choosing its first democratically-elected leader – is open for business, according to Elhamy ElZayat, chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Federation.

ElZayat, who is also CEO of destination management company Emeco, said the country had lost 90 per cent of business since The Arab Spring, but the elections were grounds for optimism.

“Egypt is an old destination, but with all the political changes going on at the moment, it also is a new destination, especially with elections for a new government.”

Speaking at IMEX in Frankfurt, he said: “For the first time in 5,000 years, we will elect our own president. Usually we always knew who would win, so this is very different for us, but despite who wins, I firmly believe that there will very few changes. For example, I do not think things such as alcohol will be banned. In my conversations, despite some sly answers, this is the feeling that I have.”

ElZayat has been involved in the meetings and events industry for many years. He added: “I started in the 1970s, when there were no mobiles. We had to borrow 10 walkie-talkies from the army to move my first incentive group, which involved 16,500 people in Cairo."

Egypt’s meetings and event industry has suffered since the revolution began. ElZayat explained: “We lost a lot, almost 90 per cent of business, and we continue to do so. This upcoming September, I was asked to bring in an incentive of 1,200 persons, and I said I cannot do it, not in Cairo. Anywhere else, yes. I could not do that and lose my reputation. Cairo is good right now for small conferences. That said, it should improve. Even if politicians have some other ideas in the back of their mind, which they are not making public now, I think the overriding issue is that they all want to stabilise the mood of the population.

ElZayat concluded: “Cairo’s traffic problems are horrendous, and we do not recommend hosting events there. My office is right in the central square. Can you imagine the noise I have had to endure in the last 18 months? This, I hope, will last only until the end of the elections. Every other location is fine. Recently, the destination of Hurghada has been the most popular with incentives. Just south of it is Marsa Alam, which has its own airport. Recently I brought in a group of almost 500 from France, which was booked after the revolution started. Egypt is open for business.”