Adel Taha, General Manager of Kimidar Tours, named Leading Travel Agency at the World Travel Awards 2013, talks about domestic travel trends and what his company is doing to help the nation’s tourism industry get back on track.
By Noha Mohammed
Over the past three years there have been many challenges to the tourism industry, which has been badly affected by political upheaval and security threats. How has Kimidar Tours managed to ride out the tourism slump?
The latest unrest [and the general] atmosphere have deeply affected the travel industry and have [added] a further [step] to our operation processes as we have to study the surrounding environment well before preparing our offers, particularly to inbound travelers. We have been trying to draw them out of Cairo — the center of events – to the beach cities such as the Red Sea in order to keep them isolated from [events in the capital] and convince them that Egypt is safe. However, you have to be frank with your customers and guests; we will in no case compromise our guests’ safety for the sake of business revenue.
Since the Revolution clients have had to readjust their travel traditions, exploring alternative options to the regular Sahel and Sokhna long weekends. Would you agree with this statement?
That’s right. The security issue has affected Egyptian domestic tourists as well as the inbound foreign traveler, particularly because of the uncertainty of road safety to the seaside cities. However, we have witnessed a remarkable growth in the volumes of Egyptian vacations in Red Sea — particularly Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh. The general unrest has created a huge market trend of outbound budget tourism as most of Egyptian travelers have opted to plan their vacations in nearby destinations outside Egypt at a budget as close as possible to what they would be paying for a domestic vacation.
Egyptians are starting to explore Egypt much more, particularly through extreme sports like rock and mountain climbing, diving and safaris. How are you promoting and accommodating the demand? Do you feel that promoting domestic tourism is the way to overcome the tourism slump?
Regardless of the current market trends, promoting domestic tourism is always a must because tourism is at the top of the major income resources for Egypt and a lot of other industries are dependent on this industry.
What new products and approaches is Kimidar offering? What more will the leading travel agency have to offer in the near future, and what long-term plans do you have?
Since its inception in 1983, Kimidar Tours has always been a pioneer in the travel market, always a step ahead when it comes to new trends and customer convenience. We have recently launched a first-of-its-kind Mobile Travel Application which enables our customers to plan, customize and book their itinerary on the go. The application is available on all handheld devices through BlackBerry, iPhone and Android stores. Most recently Kimidar Tours has been appointed GSA for one of the major booking systems which enhances both our B2B travel partners operations and B2C customer travel arrangements through vast availability, immediate confirmation and online payment for all travel services worldwide including hotels, transportation and sightseeing in addition to some pioneer competitive advantages such Rail Europe and apartment booking. We have also launched our huge online portal for sightseeing tours and activities worldwide which is merged into our website (kimidartours.com), containing a huge library of unique activities with immediate confirmation and secure online payment.
Would you say Egyptians are also starting to travel abroad more, especially after the Revolution? In recent years packages like Turkey have been very popular, what else is big with Egyptians now?
Over the last three years outbound travel has [seen the highest returns] in terms of volume and revenue because of the recent political and security issues. Favorite destinations in the Middle East are Beirut and Dubai. Paris, London and Italy as European destinations and in the Far East Malaysia and Thailand are very popular. Turkey played the ‘one-man show role’ in the outbound travel market in 2011-2012, but since the third quarter of 2013, it has disappeared completely.
With new properties being developed close to the airport (like the Kempinski, Renaissance as well as older hotels like the Dusit and JW Marriott), would you say we are becoming or could potentially become a conference destination?
Cairo has always been a popular destination for the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Exhibitions) industry and we’ve had some good experiences in this area with Cairo venues like Fairmont Nile City, Sofitel EL Gezira and Fairmont Heliopolis. So, it’s not a new orientation but a [potential] goldmine we should work hard on developing.
With venues like Cairo Festival City and Porto Amer in New Cairo plus similar entertainment complexes in 6th October, can we begin to market ourselves as a family destination too? Could we in the future compete with places like Dubai when it comes to being an entertainment destination? Would one of Kimidar sister companies consider opening up a similar entertainment venue?
Kimidar Group umbrella embraces a huge chain of sister companies all working within the area of tourism development. Among our sister is Kimidar for Investment, which specializes in touristic development projects and Golden 5 City Hotels & Resorts in Hurghada, which owns and operates seven four- and five-star hotels and resorts. Within Golden 5 City we are embracing and developing the concept of ‘lifetime family vacations’ which focuses on family escapes and kids entertainment amenities such as a unique aqua park which is currently being developed and is slated to be the No. 1 aqua park project in the country.
Despite the unrest, Egypt is still reasonably safe, or at least as safe as other destinations witnessing political upheaval. In your opinion, why have the tourists stopped coming here but are still going to places like Turkey?
Above all, media is the keyword behind such a phenomenon. It’s well known that worldwide media is [playing up] every little clash happening on the ground here – and sometimes the way they convey and communicate it is not [entirely truthful]. Other spots, like Turkey, may be witnessing more violent clashes but they are not being highlighted in the way that turns tourists and visitors away. This is why we need to put more effort into PR and marketing Egypt as a destination. It’s [not right] to stand silent and let others talk about you.
Do you think campaigns and initiatives to assure tourists it’s OK to visit are working? How about other efforts like international sports events, cultural events such as festivals and so on?
Definitely, in such uncertainty you need to present your product with some added value that will tempt tourists and visitors to come. That’s not all. Once you arouse the initial desire in the customer, you must utilize the experience to foster the sense of consistency and value in presenting the service so that it will seal the deal for returning visits and customer referral. Of course cultural events are at the top of added values you can offer to attract customers and at the same time make your service a more entertaining experience.
As 2013’s World Travel Awards Leading Travel Agency, what qualities have set Kimidar above competitors in the industry?
We were thrilled to walk away with the top prestigious World Travel Award and were particularly excited because at the same time we were celebrating our 30th anniversary in the market. We would have never reached the red carpet without our customers’ satisfaction over the past 30 years. Our success is built on customer satisfiaction and caring. This accolade recognizes the commitment to excellence which Kimidar Tours has demonstrated in the market. et