CAIRO — Insight Vacations has renewed its 30-year relationship with Egypt, returning to the country with tours including the 11-day Wonders of Egypt.
Insight suspended its operations to Egypt in 2011, when tourism came to a virtual halt with the country’s revolution and civil unrest.
Now, as the country moves forward, Insight Vacations CEO John Boulding told Travelweek he knew it was time to come back.
“We wanted to show our confidence in Egypt and in our partners here,” said Boulding, who accompanied the first tour of 2015, the Wonders of Egypt, to officially welcome travellers on the inaugural journey. “As I’ve experienced in the past, Egyptians are as welcoming as ever, happy to see tourism and tourists return.”
At one time Egypt represented as much as one-third of Insight Vacations’ business, with 10,000 Insight passengers around the world choosing this country for their vacation. Some 15% of those travellers were from Canada.
Boulding said his goal is to focus on assuring travel industry partners and travellers that Egypt is a destination that is open for business. He said it will take time for tourism to return in Egypt, and that the effects will really be seen in winter 2015-2016. “Word of mouth will be the key,” he said, “as those who come and experience Egypt will share their stories.”
Wonders of Egypt includes highlights such as Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, the temples of Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, a cruise with Uniworld Cruises on the Nile River and a visit to Aswan.
The tour begins with two days in Cairo before heading south to Luxor, the gateway to the Valley of the Kings. Home to the Temple of Karnak and the Temple of Luxor, the temples will soon be connected by the Avenue of Sphinxes, a pedestrian walkway currently under construction and excavation.
As the Insight Vacations tour group arrived at the Temple of Karnak, there was a handful of buses bringing visitors. It was a rare sight, according to Boulding.
“I’ve never seen so few people here,” he said Boulding. This ancient site, like so many included on tours, are usually visited daily by thousands of people. On this day in the late afternoon, the visitor count had barely hit a few hundred.
At nearly all the major ancient sites, it was rare to see crowds or wait in long lines. Locals who work in tourism are patiently waiting for travellers to return.
Boulding believes there are three key factors for the tourism industry to focus on for Egypt: get rid of the fear factor, emphasize the value and benefit from the current lack of crowds. “Egypt never went away. This is the time to see it.”