By Abdel Razek Al-Shuwekhi
Tourist occupancy in hotels across Egypt, specifically in tourist areas, decreased for the first three days of Ramadan, after families returned home for the start of the holy month.
The statement by an official with the Domestic Tourism department at the Tourism Promotion Authority added that the average occupancy in the Red Sea has decreased to 40%. Figures for other areas include 35% in Sharm Al-Sheikh, and 50% in Alexandria.
The official said that hotel occupancy within the Red Sea, Sharm Al-Sheikh, and Alexandria rose last week at the end of the school year, but dropped again with the start of Ramadan.
The summer is the main season in which Egyptians visit the coastal areas of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, according to the Sub-Accounts Unit of the Ministry of Tourism.
Despite the current decline in hotel occupancy in coastal areas, the official expects a recovery within the increase in foreign tourist traffic coming from the European Union and Eastern Europe.
Europe accounts for 72% of annual incoming tourism to Egypt, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism.
Fifteen European countries issued travel warnings to their citizens not to visit the Sinai Peninsula in mid-February, after the bombing of a tourist bus there. The official believes this will push incoming tourists to visit areas by the Red Sea instead, especially the city of Hurghada.
Tourism represents an important source of foreign currency entering the Egyptian economy, alongside revenues from the Suez Canal and remittances of Egyptians living abroad, according to the Central Bank of Egypt.
Income from tourism in Egypt for the first quarter of 2014 decreased to $1.3bn, down 43% from the same period last year.
According to Mohammed Al-Gundy, a member of the Red Sea Tourism Investment Association, hotel occupancy in Hurghada exceeded 60% last weekend and fell to 50% during the first three days of Ramadan.
In terms of hotel capacity, the Red Sea area’s maximum capacity caps at a total of 69,000 rooms, followed by the South Sinai area which has 62,000 rooms.
Al-Gundy expects that hotel occupancy in the Red Sea region will increase after the end of Ramadan, especially during Eid Al-Fitr.
Meanwhile, hotel occupancy decreased to about 25% in Cairo and to 13% in Luxor and Aswan. These areas have the lowest hotel occupancy in general, especially in comparison to the coastal areas, according to the official at the Domestic Tourism department.
Hotels in Cairo and Alexandria are putting on events at night throughout Ramadan, with tickets costing between EGP 100 and EGP 400. It is hoped this will compensate for the decrease in hotel occupancy, according to the official.