In a rare display of solidarity, the tourism ministers from Egypt and Tunisia were in attendance at the press conference of the UN World Tourism Organization, which was held on March 10, 2011, at ITB Berlin, the largest travel exhibition in the world.
Egypt Tourism Minister Mounir Abdul Nour and Tunisia Tourism Minister Mehdi Houas, both of whom are very new to their respective jobs, were joined by UNWTO Secretary-General TAleb Rifai during the press conference.
The Egyptian minister said: “I am delighted to be amongst all of you here in Great Berlin. As you know, I have assumed my new responsibilities as the tourism minister of Egypt only a couple of weeks ago. I have to admit that I am extremely lucky that my first trip abroad in this capacity is to attend the ITB, this vibrant meeting place of the tourism industry which gives the unique opportunity to meet you, the world leaders of the travel industry. My presence in Berlin at this juncture is extremely important with undergoing profound changes in its political regime, following the peaceful revolution by its youth and supported by the whole nation. You would agree with me that the timing could not be more opportune since it allows me to explain and to put events that are magnified or exaggerated sometimes, in their proper context and perspective.”
Minister Adbul Nour added: “In a nutshell, let me tell you that since the events started on January 25, Egyptians have regained their freedom, their pride, and their confidence in themselves, their confidence in their ability and capability to regain a democratic, secular, and unequivocal system.”
To answer any lingering doubts about Egypt’s critical role in the Middle East, Minister Abdul Nour said: “Let there be no doubt that we are committed to respect all our international commitments and to continue our endeavor to bring about comprehensive peace in the Middle East through fair, equitable, and durable solutions to the many problems facing the region. Let there be no doubt that we are committed to continue giving full support to the private sector, private initiatives, and to preserve adequate climate to attract foreign investments. Let there be no doubt that we are committed to further develop out tourism infrastructure and to extend our partners – the tour operators, the airlines, the tour agencies, the tour guides and all the stakeholders who participate and cooperate to build up the sector.”
According to the newly-appointed minister, Egypt has begun, over the past few days, to show a growing momentum and the beginning of a recovery. He said chartered planes are landing in key cities such as Sharm el Sheik and Luxor, and that hotel occupancy is increasing. “The overall situation is bouncing back, and we are determined to maintain the stability and security of Egypt to attract tourists around the world. Make them share with us the treasures of Egyptian history, the beauty of its features, and the generosity of its sun.”
He assured that Egypt is “determined to do whatever it takes to regain the confidence of the travelers. We will advertise, communicate, visit, give incentives, we will preserve and defend to keep [Egypt] a golden destination for tourists.”
“I would like to thank you all for the international public opinion [that] has been extremely sympathetic to the Egyptian cause and the Egyptian youth who [have] led the inspiring revolution,” said the Egyptian Minister.
In his address to the press at ITB Berlin, the Egyptian Minister shared a personal account on how he feels the international community has indisputably supported Egypt’s quest for democracy. He said: “The Egyptian ambassador invited me to a dinner at a Berlin restaurant and when the owner of the restaurant found out that I was Egyptian, he offered [to pay for] the dinner and said ‘in solidarity with Egyptians.’”
Overall, Egypt has excelled in 2010. According to Minister Abdul Nour, Egypt received 14.7 million tourists last year, which is an impressive 17.5% increase compared to 2009. “We hope we will be able to achieve these figures in 2011 despite the results for the first quarter,” the minister said.
Minister Abdul Nour also confirmed that Egypt has signed on to be ITB Berlin’s “partner country” for next year’s edition of the world’s largest travel exhibition.