The effects of the Arab Spring on tourism in Egypt has been a popular topic of discussion over the last month. Articles by The Economist, The New York Times and Reuters paint a picture of desperation among the citizens and government of Egypt.
As 2010 closed out we all watched the wave of revolution known as the Arab Spring unfold on traditional and new media. For many of us it was not clear what would come of this sudden rash of rebellion. Eventually the government was destabilized and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarack fell from his Reign. While celebrating their victory many Arab Spring activist did not foresee the adverse effects of the revolution and Mubarack's fall on the Egyptian economy.
Since Mubarack's fall in 2011 Egypt's bustling tourism industry has taken a sharp decline. Photos and videos of violent clashes and bombings near what had been considered historic tourist sites were spread across the internet. These viral images have replaced the postcard perceptions held about the streets of Cairo and the temples of Luxor.
The Numbers and What They Really Mean.
A record number 14.7 million tourist visited Egypt in 2010 before the uprising. Post-Arab Spring that number took a hard tumble in 2011 landing at only 9.5 million visitors. For the year 2013 it is predicted that 11.4 million tourist will visit Egypt. Egypt has gone from generating $12.5 billion in tourism income to $8.8 billion in under three years. This data shows a great decline and a very slow rebound to Egypt's booming tourism industry.
So what does it all mean? What was once known as a "world-renowned destination" has become a ghost town. This has been the worst and longest downturn in Egypt's tourism history. Egyptian Hotels are empty, museums are occupied by tour guides aimlessly wandering the halls and store vendors are seeing little to no customers. Over three million people who were supported by the tourism industry are now struggling with how to make an income and provide for their families.
Efforts to Battle The Images Left by the Arab Spring
While the Egyptian people fight to stay afloat, government officials are desperately making plugs and adjustments to increase tourism in Egypt. On Sunday, Egypt's tourism minister, Hisham Zaazou, was quoted as saying, "Bikinis are welcome in Egypt and booze is still being served." [Insert "Despite the Muslim Brotherhood"} Additionally, Zaazou is working to illustrate "the reality," to combat what many Egyptian endorsers characterize as inflated fears.
With little money for advertisement and media crowded with the remnants of violent conflict Egypt is finding it difficult to portray itself as a place of R&R. The need to seem like a safe and relaxing place to visit has even encouraged them to use technology in a new way. A number of Egyptian resorts, beaches and museums are equipped with cameras that live stream current happenings. These tactics are clear efforts to lure tourist back to Egypt so that they can reach their goal of increasing tourism by 20% this year.
After a quick look at the new media sites of the tourism board I came up with a few ideas on how they can repair Egypt's image and increase tourism. Here are just a few ideas:
1. Create a more interactive space on social media: The tourism board's social media accounts seem to be a bit reactive. There are a lot of "Thank You[s]", "Welcome[s]" and retweets but not too many conversations. They should be using these tools as opportunities to have discussions with would-be-visitors about why Egypt is the best place to take their vacation.
2. Live in the here and now: Most of the videos and photos posted on the tourism board's new media sites are frankly a bit stale. There are videos of someone windsurfing and videos that we've all watched on the history channel or photos that can be found in an issue of National Geographic from 1999. The tourism board should be publicizing images of what right now looks like on Egyptian beaches, the nile river or in Tahrir Square. They should be showing would-be-visitors an exciting image or breath taking moment happeningin that very instance. Also, they should support it with a caption that yells, "this is Egypt now and this will be Egypt when you get here tomorrow and throughout your stay-- a safe, fun and breath taking place."
3. Encourage reputable tourism bloggers to visit Egypt: If Egypt wants to get a lot then they are going to have to give a lot. The tourism board's communication staff should be searching out the top-tier tourism or travel bloggers in each of the nations that they are trying to gain visitors from. Don't be afraid to offer them an all-expense paid trip to do a review on their stay in Egypt. Yes, it is risky but it is also a great way to get exposure. This is what the greatest PR campaigns have been made of folks!
Why I Would Go to Egypt This Summer.
Though I am known to be a bit adventurous in my travels, a trip to Egypt this summer would be more than just a dare devil's attempt at an adrenaline rush. A trip to Egypt during a time of slow growth in tourism would mean lower costs and smaller crowds. Also, I'd consider it helping out with their economy and that totally vibes with my philanthropic side. Last but not least as an American citizen access to the United States consulate and evacuation procedures are pretty tight.
So will you grab your bikini and head to Egypt for a good ole' cup of booze for your next vacation?