Arab countries see greater demand from Brazilian tourists
Egypt and Palestine took part in the World Travel Market Latin America fair this week in São Paulo. Representatives from both destinations assessed as positive the interest shown by the local crowd.
São Paulo – Exhibitors from Arab countries who took part in the World Travel Market (WTM) Latin America fair said demand by Brazilians for these destinations increased this year. The tourism industry trade show ended this Thursday (6) in São Paulo.
“This year was better than the last one. There is a demand again for Egypt in the Brazilian market,” said the director of Egypt’s Tourism Authority for the United States, Canada and Latin America, Gawaher Ali Youssef, who is responsible for the country’s stand. In addition to government, the Egyptian space featured five travel agencies and two hotels. “All of them made good deals,” she said.
According to the Egyptians, last year, tourism was impacted by the crashes involving the airplanes of Metrojet, in the Sinai in October 2015, and EgyptAir, in the Mediterranean in May 2016, and by the negative publicity that followed. They believe that now, with greater political stability and safety, there’s an increase in interest for the destination.
“Egypt is back,” said the president of Egyptian travel agency Exotic Tours and Travel, Mohamed Mossad. “The problem now is the economic situation, not safety,” he added. Tourism is one of the main sectors of the Egyptian economy and its recovery is considered to be crucial to the creation of jobs and income.
Among the new features presented in the fair this year is the route of the Holy Family in Egypt, which the government began to promote recently, as reported by ANBA from October 2016. “Some of these points [in the route] are not that developed [in terms of tourist infrastructure] yet, but many groups head to destinations in the South and North of Egypt,” said Mossad. “There’s always great interest. I myself take many Catholic and Evangelical groups to Egypt,” he said.
Although Brazil’s economy is not doing well right now, the Brazilian real’s recent hike on the dollar encourages foreign travel. “This is indeed good for outbound tourism, but a stronger exchange rate (dollar) would be better for inbound tourism,” said expo director Lawrence Reinisch.
A new feature of international pavilions for this edition is the Palestine stand. “We’ve had Palestinian professionals exhibit with us before, but not Palestine as a country,” said Reinisch. “It is important for us to have them here, since Brazil has long-standing ties with Palestine, and having a stand is key to making our relations more dynamic, especially when it comes to people staying in the country,” he remarked.
Palestinians have long called on tourists in the Holy Land to hire Palestinian agencies, stay in Palestinian hotels, and buy Palestinian goods and services. The Tourism Promotion coordinator with Palestine’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities Sahar Rishmawi, who’s in charge of the country’s stand, said the industry is stronger now, including the hotels. “Last year, we welcomed 2.3 million tourists despite the surrounding scenario, and this is a good thing,” she said. According to Rishmawi, the number concerns people who visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, because Palestine does not control its border. She added that 60,000 visitors were from Brazil. “We have no stability to speak of, but we can always rely on tourism,” she asserted.
Rishmawi said Palestine joins the trade show of the Brazilian Travel Agencies Association (Abav) every year since 1998, but this year it decided to go to the WTM. “We decided to make a test to see which is better,” she said. Even though both are tourism-oriented events, WTM focuses on deals involving companies and industry professionals, whereas Abav is all about retail sales for the general public.
Besides the government, two Palestinian travel agencies were at the stand. “The feedback we got from the companies was great,” said Rishmawi.
In addition to Egypt and Palestine, Emirates Airline, from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, was also at the expo.
Overall, Lawrence Reinisch said exhibitors were pleased. “There is enthusiasm about the expo’s results, the exhibitors are very happy,” he said. “They did business, so our primary goal was fulfilled,” he added.
Last year, USD 370 million worth of deals were made at WTM according to its organizers. It will be a while before figures for this edition are available, but the executive claimed the number could be “upward.” “The first two days we had 20% more people attend,” he said. The event lasted three days. “Everyone is more optimistic now,” he noted.
*Translated by Sérgio Kakitani & Gabriel Pomerancblum