by Marwa Yahya
LUXOR, EGYPT, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Inspired by the "Enjoy your winter in Egypt" initiative, Abdel Rahman Saffy accompanied his four-member family to Egypt's monument-rich Luxor city, south of the capital Cairo, to enjoy its warm weather and historic attractions.
The initiative launched by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in coordination with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Egyptian Hotel Association started from Jan. 15 and will last until Feb. 28.
As part of this initiative, domestic airline round trip ticket prices from Cairo to Luxor, Aswan, Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada, Taba, and Marsa Alam and from Alexandria to Luxor and Aswan are set at a flat rate of 1,500 to 2,000 Egyptian pounds (nearly 96 to 128 U.S. dollars), including taxes.
Nearly 114 hotels are participating in the initiative, in categories of three, four, and five stars, and are offering discount rates for accommodations.
Besides, the Supreme Council of Antiquities granted Egyptians a 50-percent reduction in ticket prices to museums and archaeological sites in Qena, Luxor, and Aswan.
"The initiative's discounted prices encouraged me to spend the academic mid-year vacation in Luxor," Saffy told Xinhua, saying that his family enjoyed visiting the temples and that the trip will expand his children's knowledge about their country's history.
Mohamed Ismael, manager of the Horus Hotel in Luxor, said the occupancy of his hotel reached 100 percent thanks to the initiative, which is helping revive domestic tourism amid a sharp decline in the sector's revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Domestic tourism is the lifeline of the hotel sector now even with the discounts that have been imposed by the Ministry of Tourism," Ismael said.
"The hotel worked with a full staff this season," he said, while expressing the wish that the pandemic would disappear soon so that the tourism industry could experience a revival.
All precautionary measures and hygiene safety regulations are strictly implemented and the hotel workers are well-trained to help visitors stay safe, the hotel manager added.
For Ismael, the initiative came at the right time to help solve the crisis faced by workers in the tourism sector, especially in tourist cities like Luxor and Aswan, where the majority of residents completely depend on the tourism sector for a living.
The creative initiative has not only injected a huge impetus into the tourism industry, but has also greatly contributed to raising young people's awareness of the value of ancient Egyptian civilization and the greatness of their ancestors, he added.
Mohamed Othman, chairman of the marketing committee for cultural tourism in the Luxor tourism chamber, said that the initiative was the sole window for the Egyptian tourism market in comparison with complete closure policies that were adopted by most European countries for fighting the coronavirus.
"Workers in the tourism sector were battered heavily by the virus, and reviving domestic tourism was key to saving the jobs of the workers in that vital industry," Othman said.
Around 1,000 Egyptian tourists visited Luxor in January, Othman said, urging Egyptian families to join the initiative and enjoy the unique nature of Luxor.
Meanwhile, occupancy in cruises has soared to 50 percent from 10 percent before the adoption of the initiative in the country, said Abdel-Fattah al-Assy, assistant to the minister of tourism for supervising the hotel and tourist institutions.
The initiative has achieved its goals -- reviving domestic tourism, giving Egyptians opportunities to visit tourist cities at cheap prices, as well as boosting business for hotels at a difficult time.
"The move also constituted positive publicity for the Egyptian tourism industry, because the operation of hotels mirrored its safety under precautionary measures, which makes Egypt a special destination for international tourists," al-Assy said.
Tourism, Egypt's third-largest source of national income, was the sector most adversely impacted by the spread of COVID-19, as the number of tourists visiting Egypt in 2020 reached 3.7 million, compared to 13.1 million in the previous year. Enditem