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Egypt: Current Issues in Tourism and Hospitality Industry. Solutions-1

The article explores major issues in tourism and hospitality industry in Egypt.

We provide the analysis of major issues the visitors face and provide technology-based solutions.

read in 12 mins

At present, the main tourist centers of Egypt boast a wide range of hotels - from luxurious palaces to more affordable options. There are a lot of excellent hotels with colonial architecture dating back to the colonial period. There are quite a few comfortable and clean venues to stay in, situated in beautiful locations across the country. Luxury hotels are located near the banks of the Nile or around the main attractions. Affordable ones are scattered everywhere across the country. In Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada, Alexandria and Mersa Matruh, the best resort complexes and hotels are located close to the sea, and the cheapest, respectively, are quite far from the coast. 

"I have a vast touristic experience regarding Egypt as I have been visiting it 2-3 times a year since 2004. Because my husband is Egyptian, I was able to get the National ID many years ago that gave us an opportunity to stay at hotels for locals, the military, or international ones at local prices. One striking thing I have noticed is the difference in venue prices for locals and foreigners." Nelly Veger

The table below shows the price difference for tourists and locals regarding hotels and entrance tickets to attractions:

Such a pricing policy exists everywhere in the country. The only exceptions are amusement parks with fixed ticket prices, malls and restaurants with prices indicated on the menu, and all the extras that a customer has to pay is tax and 10% tip that is obligatory and included in the bill. By the way, asking for tips is very common in Egypt, so the visitor should stock up on change in advance. 

With regard to the above pricing concept, all types of venues would leverage a digital tool based on scanning documents. The logic would identify the guest as a foreigner or local and calculate the costs.

Hotels for the locals

Here the staff does not know a single word of English, and they are always seizing the opportunity to beg for money, saying a million compliments and “prayers for your soul” per minute. The room at such a venue has an impressive resemblance to an ordinary Egyptian apartment due to a similar layout and furniture. There is a hall for the family, and a hall for guests (this room is always clean and is not used by the family as it is designated for the guests exclusively). The biggest advantage is the size of the rooms that compare to suites in ordinary hotels.



At the venue restaurant, one can find only national dishes, and basically it is either breakfast only or à la carte service. As a rule, about 70% of the dishes on the menu are not available, and the guests end up ordering what is there.

Don’t expect to be happy with the dishes offered unless you are into fatty food and beans.

"In my opinion, hotels for locals are a weird phenomenon. It looks like the locals are not very pretentious and the venues don't care about the guest satisfaction." Nelly Veger

Another category is hotels for the military. Only direct relatives of military officers have the right to stay there. Moreover, the officer himself must make the reservation and make sure that the guests are not spies.

I spent only one night at such a hotel and it was very creepy. There were a lot of attendants, all men, and my child and I were the only guests.

I should admit that the best hotels in Egypt are located in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Sinai areas.

Categories of rooms in Egyptian hotels

The room category depends on the concept of the hotel itself. The classification of rooms is based on the number of beds and a level of comfort provided.

"Standart" (STD) is the most common room type. Comfortable "standards" can be found in affordable "three stars" and luxury five-star hotels. They make up the majority of the rooms at a venue and provide a basic level of comfort, but the more stars the hotel can boast, the more amenities such a room has to offer. At a classy 3-star hotel, a Standard is a room of 12-16 sq.m. with a view and a balcony. There one can usually find a refrigerator, a kettle, a set of dishes, a desk, some stationery, a mirror, a safe, a closet, a place for suitcases, a bathroom with a hygienic shower and a set of toiletries, as well as a minimum of 3 sets of towels. 

"Superior" - a standard room with an enhanced level of comfort. Here, the differentiating factors are considered to be the view on the sea, a larger size, and the presence of a mini-bar.

"Studio" tends to be chosen by many categories of tourists, for example, small families or divers who prefer to stay in spacious single rooms with the kitchen.

"Shale" is a room offering superior comfort as well as a ground terrace with access to the territory, and a separate entrance from the parking lot. It includes a kitchen and a well-equipped bathroom.

"De luxe" - luxurious rooms for the most demanding customers. They are usually 40% more expensive than "standards" and have more ornate furnishings, modern technology and a great view from the window.

"Suite-luxe" - the priciest room type in hotels that varies in degrees of comfort. Usually suites are several times more expensive than other rooms and are mainly intended for affluent guests. The rooms of this category have a living room, a bedroom and an additional office or room. Suites are also associated with a special view from the window, which should fascinate the guest who has chosen a vacation in fabulous Egypt.

"Bungalow" is a stand-alone family house designated for relaxing near the water. The concept of bungalow hotels has come to Egypt from Maldives where they appeal to tourists from all over the world. Bungalows are not very big houses located on the water with a bedroom, a kitchenette, a small hall, a terrace, a balcony or a private front garden. The advantage of a bungalow holiday is that the surrounding water relaxes, puts the body into harmonious rhythms, allows the guests to experience all the delights of a beach holiday without leaving the accommodation.

"Villa" is an isolated house intended for one or two families. As a rule, it is a two-story super-luxe building with its own swimming pool and garden, which are located a little away from the main building. A huge advantage of such villas is the ability to use all facilities of the hotels they belong to. In addition, the villas on the territory of the hotels are always under round-the-clock security.

"President" - the name of the room speaks for itself and assumes the best quality and high standards of stay. As a rule, such a room is of a huge area, and comprises several bedrooms, an office, two or three bathrooms, and a living room. Rooms of this category are available only in four- and five-star hotels in Egypt. 

As a picture is worth a thousand words, it is very beneficial for all types of venues to have an application that allows the guests to see the accommodation and plunge into the holiday atmosphere prior to arrival.

Things to be aware of


Overbooking

During major religious and national holidays, overbooking is a common thing. Hotels accept 2, 3 and even 4 reservations for one room to make sure that each room is occupied in case some guests fail to come. The precaution often results in the situation when the majority or all of the people who have booked the room arrive at the same time, and huge arguments occur, as everyone claims the same category of accommodation. 

One of the successful examples of resolving the issue is a web service that blocks the reservation using an assigned logic. If several people are trying to book one room at the same time, it will be allocated to the first person, others will get an inactive button and will not be able to proceed.

Deceiving photos

Don't expect the room to look exactly like the photo on the booking sites, or as advertised by the travel agency, it's highly unlikely. There is such an unwritten rule to put pictures of a suite or a superior room on all photos of the hotel (except international hotel chains).

As a rule, the price you get when booking online is more affordable than paying upon arrival, as in this case it will change daily depending on the exchange rate. 

There is a rule for locals that only officially married couples can stay together in a hotel, and a document proof is required. Thus, the price will be cheaper and there is an opportunity to bargain and add comfort and services instead of a discount. Tourists are not usually asked for such documents.

As a solution to the issue, I suggest creating a digital review tool enabling each client of the hotel to attach real photos that can be viewed on the booking sites. When the customers become aware of the photo discrepancies, the hotel's reputation will slide into a ditch. On the other hand, hotels with a good reputation inspire confidence and people opt to come back there again and again.

Check-in issues

Even if you've booked an early check-in, it might not happen. I remember waiting from 8:20 to 14:00 at one venue. The guests have to demand a room literally every half an hour, and offering staff money will make the process much faster. If you really want to stay in the room that you've booked, be prepared to stay your ground and endure 2-3 room changes.

It is highly advisable to inspect the room before checking in: try to pay attention to the condition of the taps and the presence of mold, turn on the lights everywhere, check the bed for hair and overall cleanness, do not look at the room with luggage so as not to drag it back and forth. After you've checked in, find out which restaurant you belong to, and if you have AI, then you should be given a bracelet for each family member. Follow these rules very carefully in order to avoid trouble during your vacation.

Where to start exploring Egypt

It is believed that in order to feel and understand Egypt, one should visit the capital of this country - Cairo. It is a city of contrasts. Here, modern and ancient traditions are surprisingly intertwined.

In Cairo, luxury hotels are concentrated in three main areas: not far from the airport (for transit travelers with a couple of days to spare), on the coast and the islands of the Nile, and near the Citadel. I would recommend choosing the hotels that are close to the Nile, even the ones that do not belong to the international network, as the majority of restaurants and attractions are concentrated here. Besides, there are a lot of policemen and the area is safe. You can continue your acquaintance with Egypt in the Valley of the Kings and visit Abu Simbel.

"I recommend: visiting the museums of Egyptian civilization and the pyramids, climbing the Cairo Tower, seeing the citadel, having a boat trip on the Nile, buying souvenirs at the Khan Al Khalili market (need to bargain to death) and trying out at least one restaurant with national food (order baked pigeons and Koshari for a more memorable experience)." Nelly Veger

Our company can develop a web service in which the hotel administration can add affiliate programs for visiting attractions and buying tours, which is much more convenient than doing it manually.

Getting around

I would advise you to use official taxis like Uber, Careem, London Cab - these 3 are the most reliable, the taxi cabs are clean and there is no need to pay in cash and tip. The application provides information about the driver, the route, arrival time, the cost of the journey, and allows the client to leave a review.

In no case should you catch white taxis at the curb unless you are willing to have some negative experience. I recall having 4 arguments with the drivers for money. One of them even involved the tourist police. As the driver wanted more money than we originally agreed, he took a stroller and some of our bags, and refused to give them back, demanding us to pay extra.

Issues in catering

The Egyptians don’t care about hygienic standards in the catering industry, in particular, that is relevant to non-chain hotels. If you happen to visit Egypt frequently, you will have to get used to the local cuisine, carry enzymes for digestion, and sorbents in case of poisoning.

The advice on this matter is to eat in chain hotels or well-known restaurants that offer the highest quality buffet with an abundance of dishes from different countries. As a rule, they adhere to the hygienic standards that tremendously diminishes the chances of food poisonings and similar health problems. 

In 2021, after the mass poisonings in Hurghada, the “quality of tourist service” became a resounding issue at the state level for the first time despite decades of complaints. A large number of inspections took place all over the country as a result of which a lot of hotels lost their "stars", closed, had their licenses revoked, or kitchens closed until all the rules of sanitary norms and covid protocols were followed. Egypt has been notorious for poor quality of service and food for ages, and maybe something will change now, since a lot of things are tied to tourism.

What solutions can be offered

The guests, whose expectations haven't been met, can resort to the complaints application, which will force the hotel to offer them a room upgrade or tour voucher.

Here, nepotism is very common, as in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Therefore, a blind eye is turned to problems in security systems, surveillance, etc. Connections mean a lot. 

"I fancy the experience of the UAE in this regard more, since it is not the connections that decide everything, but the availability and serviceability of the critical systems in the venue. The hospitality business will not receive the permission to operate, unless the due level of standard is met, since people might suffer in the future." Nelly Veger

As for the food, it should be fresh, varied and tailored to the preferences of the guests.

Security is a no-brainer, all systems must work, and our company can make applications to control utilities and check the health of security systems.

by Nelly Veger

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