A campaign to promote Sharm el-Sheikh must launch within weeks to capitalise on customers starting to receive refunds for lost Thomas Cook holidays, says Red Sea Holidays boss Peter Kearns.
He cited a lack of public awareness about the flight ban being lifted as the “biggest obstacle” to booking the Egyptian resort, and said the news had been “drowned out” by Brexit.
Executive director Kearns urged Egypt’s tourist office to launch a UK campaign quickly, saying now was the perfect time to promote Sharm, which has been off sale for four years.
He said “bookings have been going well” and prior to the FCO’s advice change, the operator received calls from up to 20 clients a week to find out when it would go back on sale.
“Thomas Cook refunds will start coming through in a few weeks’ time,” he said. “We need a campaign to say Egypt is safe and it needs to be shouted from the rooftops.
“[Prior to 2015] there was a gigantic market to Sharm and the tourist office has a fantastic opportunity to get this back, especially as it is outside the eurozone.”
Amr El Ezabi, UK and Ireland director of the Egyptian State Tourist Office, said a “proper campaign” was not expected until January, but joint advertising with operators would start before Christmas.
El Ezabi said the campaign would need to educate a “new generation” of agents. “The young guys who have only worked in the industry for five years may have never sold Sharm,” he added.
Red Sea Holidays is poised to run a joint campaign once funding is signed off by the tourist board and has already ramped-up digital advertising. This week it put a second weekly flight to Sharm on sale. It now has flights out of Birmingham from December 19 as well as Gatwick from December 22.
Olympic Holidays and Tui have pledged a return to Sharm but have yet to confirm flights.