Before COVID-19, bucket list trips were something people talked about doing, saving them for milestone occasions or holding off for retirement. Post COVID-19, that’s changed. People aren’t waiting anymore. One of the destinations that’s benefitting the most from people’s desires to see the world while they can is Egypt.
Though tourism numbers aren’t what they were in 2019 (which saw the second highest arrival numbers in a decade), arrivals are up dramatically over the past two years with U.S. travelers a driving force the growth. In fact, by 2024, air lift from the U.S. is expected to exceed 2019 levels.
Suppliers catering to the North American market are reacting to the demand.
“Our cruises on the Nile are some of our most popular cruises,” Stefanie Schmudde, vice president of product development & operations at Abercrombie & Kent told TMR recently. “We continuously add new departures for various journeys across Egypt at various price points and they sell out regardless.”
AmaWaterways, which launched its first Nile River ship last year, is also seeing “extremely strong demand” for its Nile River cruises. So much so, that it’s adding a second ship in 2024.
“We’ve seen such wonderful interest from both our loyal guests, as well as new guests since we launched our first ship there in September 2021,” said Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-founder of AmaWaterways.
Viking is seeing much the same, according to Richard Marnell, executive vice president of marketing for the cruise line.
“Our Egypt fleet is growing in response to the strong demand we have seen for our offerings in the region,” he said. The line, which last month launched a new purpose-built ship for the Nile, also has two more Nile River ships under construction.
River cruise lines aren’t the only companies seeing strong demand for Egypt.
“We are seeing a tremendous uptick in demand for Egypt relative to past years, to the point that Egypt is now the second most popular destination with our clients (behind Italy and ahead of Greece and France),” Kelly Torrens, vice president of product for Kensington Tours told TMR.
In comparison to 2019 numbers, the tour operator has seen a 50% increase in topline sales over the last 12 months, she added.
She heard the same thing from hoteliers in Cairo and Luxor during a recent trip there, who also reported very high occupancy levels throughout fall 2022.
“Hotel management across both destinations report that the U.S. leisure market is driving the strongest demand,” she said.
Reasons for the Growing Demand
Kensington’s Torrens attributes the Egyptian travel demand surge to several factors.
“Egypt qualifies as an ultimate bucket list destination, which is a highly appealing style of trip coming out of COVID-19,” she said.
Danielle Griggs, ACC, owner of a Cruise Planners franchise, echoed Torrens.
“COVID shocked everyone in the sense that it really did turn the world upside down and closed it for a while and people just realize that sometimes there is a limit on what’s available. So what are we waiting for? Let’s go out there and let’s do it… People are definitely going further, staying longer and spending more. They want to get back out into the world and really experience things and feel like they’re making up for lost time.”
Bucket list trips like going to Egypt are what’s scratching that itch for them, not the “same trip to the beach or three or four night Caribbean cruise” that they used to do.
Torrens also said Egypt is benefitting from interest that might otherwise have been directed at longer-haul destinations, like Japan, Australia and New Zealand, which until recently have been pretty closed off to the rest of the world.
Similarly, international airlift to Egypt is currently more reliable and consistent than to other bucket list destinations across Asia Pacific, she said.
A third factor Torrens cited is the country’s current political climate, which she said “is at its calmest since the Arab Spring.”
Griggs also mentioned safety when talking about Egypt.
“There’s definitely demand now that things are settled somewhat over there and Americans are feeling safer about it. On the supplier side, they understand out apprehension and are doing a lot of things to help tourists feel safer.”
On a recent fam trip to Egypt, Griggs said they always had one or two security guards with them wherever they went.
“It wasn’t an overbearing presence at all. It sort of reminded me a little bit of secret service style, a guy in a spot coat with a little piece in his ear and wearing sunglasses… someone who was mindful of what we were doing and what was happening around us.”
She added that having security on hand helped people to enjoy the trip and immerse themselves in the experience without feeling like they had to look over their own shoulders.