Khaled Fouda, South Sinai Governor of Egypt, gives an exclusive interview with Xinhua in Cairo, capital of Egypt, Aug. 14, 2016. "Besides the traditional origins of tourists, now we have turned our eyes on China, a country with a large population and ancient culture, similar to Egypt," the governor said, adding that Sharm el-Sheikh is highly and technologically-based re-secured, ready to welcome people around the world. (Xinhua/Meng Tao) To match "Feature:Egypt's tourism sector turns more attention to Chinese Market"
by Xinhua Writer Wang Xue, Mahmoud Fouly
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) -- Warm sunshine, peaceful beaches, colorful reefs and a cup of iced drink are always essentials for a heaven-like vocation, and also compose the reason why Sharm el-Sheikh is famous around the world.
However, as Egypt's most famous tourism city, Sharm el-Sheikh is still suffering from the sluggish income growth in the tourism sector, with hope on the coming season and a new market, China.
"We have gone through a very tough period because of the terrorism," Egyptian Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed told Xinhua in an exclusive interview recently, adding that the declining dollar income in tourism is the main reason of the current economic woes in his country.
Egypt has been suffering from the weak economy, especially in tourism, the second largest U.S. dollar income sector, over the past few years due to political turmoil.
The situation further deteriorated due to the Russian plane crash in Sinai that killed over 200 in October last year and a tragic fall of an EgyptAir flight in May that killed all 66 people on board.
"Egypt is where the history started, and tourism is a very cultural embedded industry. We have one-third of the antiquities of the world and the largest beaches on the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, which I believe is very attractive for the Chinese tourists," Rashed explained Egypt's interests in Chinese market.
"With the testimony of all people, including the Chinese living in Egypt, it is evident that Egypt is safe and a good choice for everyone for holidays," he added.
According to a report by the Egyptian statistics authority, the number of tourists coming to the country declined in May by 51.7 percent, comparing to the same month last year, with the main reason of the flight bans carried out by Russia, Britain and some other Western states after the plane accident last year.
At the same time, the number of Chinese visitors to Egypt increased from 65,000 to 135,000 in 2015, while the tourism ministry targets to multiply the number in 2016, given the growing bilateral relations the two countries.
"The good news is we have witnessed a slow growth in tourists recently, especially during the vocational month in the Arab countries," Khaled Fouda, South Sinai Governor of Egypt, said in an interview on Sunday.
"Besides the traditional origins of tourists, now we have turned our eyes on China, a country with a large population and ancient culture, similar to Egypt," the governor said, adding that Sharm el-Sheikh is highly and technologically-based re-secured, ready to welcome people around the world.
He also told Xinhua that Chinese people still don't know enough about Egypt. "It means that we have broad prospects in Chinese market," Fouda added.
Along the coastal strip of Sharm el-Shaeikh lays hundreds of hotels, resorts, travel agencies and night clubs. Some of them have been shut down, only leaving the dedicate buildings beside the sea, while others are trying to attract the shrinked number of tourists with lower price.
"Sharm el-Sheikh has become a habit for my family, every summer we come here with friends," George Turk, a middle-aged Jordanian told Xinhua. His wife and daughters were playing in a swimming pool within a hotel.
He said that years ago, Sharm el-Sheikh was always full of people from Britain and Russia. Now he noticed the increasing number of Chinese tourists.
A Chinese student named Li Ruiqing told Xinhua, echoing the governor's words, that "for most Chinese people, Egypt is still a distant country with mysterious culture. They like beaches and old temples, but they don't know well about Egypt."
For Semih Elbaba, the manager of a famous hotel named Rixos Seagate Sharm, his business idea is a little different from others.
"Differing from the other owners who have shut down their hotels or promoted cheaper packages while firing some staff, we choose to maintain our price and develop more projects," Elbaba told Xinhua.
As an experienced practitioner in the field of hotel management, Elbaba said Sharm el-Sheikh is reviving slowly, and his hotel will work on some promotion campaigns in China.
"We don't worry about the income in a short term, we cast our hope in the future," he said.