Three years ago Zoom Vacations made the decision to go back to Egypt. It had been six years after the last Zoom Egypt tour, and the Arab Spring which scared everyone off from visiting this magical country. It had been long enough and we knew it was time to go back to rediscover a land that has been part of all of our history for thousands of years.
On our first return in 2016 the trip sold out quickly by guests who understood it was safe to return, and once in Egypt we were welcomed by all Egyptians; the Christian Brotherhood was gone; and Egyptians were hungry to see tourists again. Hotels were running 20% occupancy and flights were half empty. The Nile was a quiet oasis or at times a parking lot of empty river cruises.
Our group marveled at the ancient sites, alone, and all to ourselves. We were thrilled to be the only ones there, no lines, no crowds, enjoying all the beauty to ourselves. But at the same time it was sad that the locals were unemployed and really suffering from the lack of tourism. Then in 2017 Zoom Vacations returned. We offered a tour, and it quickly sold out, so we offered a second, which sold out, and then a third, with sold out! This time things seemed busier; the hotels and flights were slightly fuller; the Nile boat traffic seamed to be a bit more brisk.
In the last year I have heard a lot about the pent-up desire by travelers to return to Egypt and how it was on the list of "It" places to see in 2018 and beyond. This did not prepare me for the busy and bustling Egypt we encountered on our two Zoom Egypt 2018 trips. Both of our Cairo hotels were running 100% occupancy, which was great because many of our guests were upgraded to the best rooms and even suites; some domestic flights were upgraded from a 70 seater Embraer regional jet to a 300 seater Airbus jet; and the Nile River traffic was nonstop.
Everywhere we visited was full of tourists, and we had to adjust our schedule to avoid crowds. We have already seen price increases in services between 20-100% especially in the luxury sector. It is expected that Egypt will continue to see exponential tourism growth in the coming years, especially with the long anticipated opening of the St Regis Hotel and the new 1 billion USD Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Egypt has also made it easier for tourists to enter with a new online visa application process. I am thrilled that Egypt is once again bustling with tourism but miss the days when I had all the fantastic Egyptian temples and pyramids to ourselves.