Egypt has conceded it will not meet its targets for UK visitor numbers because of Air Passenger Duty.

Egypt tourism minister Zoheir Garranah told WTM delegates the destination faced one of its biggest challenges following further rises in APD. He called for a level playing field across non-euro and eurozone countries, with all countries taxed equally.

 “All we are asking is for the tax to be unified,” he said. “We are not against a departure tax but it has to be fair. We cannot let it pass as if nothing has happened.”

UK visitor numbers to Egypt this year are 9% up on last year, with 1.4 million anticipated for the whole year.

“We will continue to have growth from the UK market until the end of the year but I feel the challenges are much bigger than in the last five to six years,” said Garranah, making reference to APD.

He said there was a three-year plan to increase UK visitor numbers by 60%-70% but admitted “with the constraints of APD we will not be able to achieve it”.
He added: “We will continue our maximum efforts to bring the British market to Egypt.”

Egypt expects visitor numbers in total to reach 14.5 million this year, with numbers already up by more than 18% for the first nine months of this year compared to last year. In 2009, visitor numbers hit 12.5 million, down on 12.8 million in 2008.

The country is continuing to invest in tourism during the global downturn, he added.

At WTM, the destination unveiled a $368 million investment in a new brand for a collection of nine of Egypt’s most iconic hotels over the next three years.

The investment aims to preserve the hotels, which have been recognised for their historical or architectural significance. In total, 1,277 rooms will be renovated and 320 new rooms created under the Historic Hotels of Egypt brand.