International brand investment indicates optimism for Egypt

It's been more than four years since the Arab Spring changed Egypt forever, and the nation's tourism scene is still adjusting to the new normal. And while visitor numbers are not back to where they were in 2010, hotel developers seem to be optimistic: International brands have announced several new properties—including upscale and luxury hotels—for the coming years, indicating confidence in the nation's future as a tourism destination.

Visitor Numbers
As Reuters put it, Egypt's economy has been "hammered" by a "precipitous fall in tourist visitors" and a lack of foreign investment due to "protracted political upheaval" since the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt hopes to generate $20 billion in revenue from tourism by 2020 by attracting 20 million visitors, new Tourism Minister Khaled Ramy told Reuters in March at an international investment conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. 

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More than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010. That dropped to 9.8 million in 2011, rose the following year to 11.5 million but shrank back to about 10 million last year. 

But hotel numbers seem to be on the rebound, at least in the urban centers: Last year, STR Global reported that Cairo saw an 49.4 percent occupancy increase to 52.6 percent. According to HotStats, Sharm El Sheikh's hotels reported strong growth in top-line performance levels.

The Hotels
This week, FRHI Hotels and Resorts, the parent company of the Fairmont, Swissôtel and Raffles brands, released new details of its tri-brand hotel development in Sharm El Sheikh, and announced it has signed agreements with Citystars Properties for two new projects in the country. 

Citystars Properties, a developer of  mixed-use real estate in Egypt, will brand and operate all five projects. The new hotels will more than double the FRHI’s footprint in the country. 

The two new projects include a Fairmont hotel in Soma Bay, south of Hurghada, and a Swissôtel property in Katameyah, Cairo. Both are set to open by 2020. 

Fairmont Soma Bay will have 300 guestrooms and suites, including Fairmont Gold, the brand’s hotel-within-a-hotel concept, and 150 Fairmont-branded residences for sale. The hotel will cater to both business and leisure travelers, offering 27,000 square feet of meeting and event space, along with a wellness center and spa. 

The new Swissôtel property will have 250 guestrooms and suites, 38 Swiss Executive Club rooms, and 50 luxury residential apartments under the Swissôtel Living concept. 

In addition to the two new projects, the ongoing Sharm El Sheikh development, which includes a Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel property, is spread over 7.5 million square meters, and has 22 kilometers of white sand beaches, an 18-hole golf course, and the largest man-made, swimmable lagoon in the world (as acknowledged by Guinness World Records). The complex was designed by Godwin Austen Johnson.

Fairmont currently operates several properties in Egypt, including Fairmont Nile City, Fairmont Towers, Heliopolis and Fairmont Heliopolis in Cairo.

Later this year, the Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski will open in the New Cairo area close to the International Airport. The hotel will have 245 rooms and suites and extensive meeting and event space. (The Excelsior Ballroom alone has a capacity of 2,300 guests, and will reportedly be Egypt's largest ballroom.) Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski will be the group’s second in the Egyptian capital after the Kempinski Nile Hotel in Garden City.

In February, Hilton Worldwide signed a management agreement with the Asala For Investment and Touristic Development Company to open its first DoubleTree by Hilton in Ain Al Sokhna, Egypt.

Expected to open in 2017, the newly-constructed hotel is part of a mixed-use residential and leisure development and will have an all-day dining restaurant and five additional food and beverage outlets.

Hilton Worldwide currently has 18 hotels operating across Egypt, with a further five hotels under development, including Hilton Alexandria Kings Ranch, which is due to open in May. 

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