Ministry of Tourism inks deal with VISA to revive tourism
Hisham Zaazou (L) and Tarek al-Husseiny (R) - Photo courtesy of Randa EL-Bana
By RANDA EL-BANNA

CAIRO: A protocol between the Ministry of Tourism and the VISA credit card company was signed last week with the intent of reviving tourism according to Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou at a Sunday press conference.

The deal had been on the table for two years and will aim to increase foreign and internal tourism through promotion campaigns on social media. Zaazou and VISA Regional Director for North and West Africa Tarek al-Husseiny attended the conference.

“The tourism industry has developed enormously and the methods used to promote tourism must be developed too. This can be achieved through using social media,” Husseiny said during the conference.

He said VISA will hold a photography contest under the name “Rediscover Egypt.” Contestants will submit photos of their past visits to Egypt and the winning photographer will receive a fully paid Egypt trip from VISA. The goal of the contest is to reverse the image of Egypt as an unsafe country and promote the country through social media.

Zaazou said partnering with VISA in this promotion is key, as the electronic payment service provider is a world leader in the field, and European tourists are increasingly booking trips online. He referenced data indicating 51 percent of British tourists make online accommodations and 57 percent of German tourists book online too. But, only a dismal 0.02 percent of these essential foreign tourists currently book trips to Egypt and these numbers must increase.

The VISA deal is the latest in a string of agreements and developments aimed at reviving Egypt’s sagging tourism industry. Statistics indicate tourism revenues came out to only $4.4 Billion in 2013. In comparison, in 2012 the industry earned $12.5 billion.

The Ministry of Tourism is also activating agreements with airline companies and starting direct flights to cities like Hurghada from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Also, in winter there will be new international direct flights to Luxor and Aswan, Ministry of Tourism consultant Sameh Saad told The Cairo Post.

The aviation authority and communications ministry have also signed new contracts for direct flights from major European cities to locations like Luxor and Hurghada.

Zaazou told The Cairo Post that the VISA initiative will be different from other initiatives because it works in parallel with other protocols, like the Google plan. All these working together can improve tourism in Egypt and take it to levels higher than those of 2010, he said.

“We cannot pretend that Egyptian tourism is fine and doing well,” Zaazou told ONTV on July 30.  “We had high hopes regarding improving the tourism situation but this went with the wind after tourism-exporting countries raised alerts preventing people from visiting Egypt.”

However, Zaazou told The Cairo Post that Egypt was negotiating with foreign countries to remove these alerts.

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