Despite the political unrest sweeping the Middle East, tourism to Egypt arrivals in Egypt have remained remarkably stable over recent weeks.
One of the many success stories has been Sheraton Soma Bay Resort – which was recognised by the World Travel Awards as the Egypt’s Leading All-Inclusive Resort in 2010.
Here Breaking Travel News catches up with general manager, Franz Kielnhofer, to find out what 2011 holds for the hotel.
Breaking Travel News: Sheraton Soma Bay Resort was recognised as Egypt’s Leading All-inclusive Resort by the World Travel Awards in 2010. What do you think it is that separates the property from its competitors?
Franz Kielnhofer: The AI concept at our hotel has been incorporated in the existing operation. A la carte for Lunch, Breakfast Buffet or Dinner or a selected four course Menu at our Italian Restaurants.
No bracelets, AI clients are identified through the meal plan. Local Wine, local beers, water and soft drinks are available from 10:00 to midnight throughout the Hotel.
The Mini Bar and a comprehensive inclusive Sports package is also part of the formula.
BTN: How do you intend to maintain the advantage; are there any investment plans or new developments planned at the property for 2011?
FK: Currently we are in the process of opening 16 new Suites on the complex. This represents the most luxurious accommodation in the hotel directly by the sea. Investments plans are on hold pending further development on the political front and the subsequent stability that is imperative for our industry.
BTN: All-inclusive is a developing trend among visitors from Europe, allowing holidaymakers to keep tabs on spending. Do you feel this has contributed to the success of Sheraton Soma Bay Resort?
FK: All Inclusive bookers in our Hotel are clients who book out of convenience. Upon booking they know they do not have any extra costs. In our case this is especially so for Senior citizens. AI occupancy on average is 40 per cent of the total occupancy peaking sometimes at 70 per cent.
BTN: Golf is also a major part of the property’s offering; can you tell us what is on offer?
FK: Soma Bay clients have exclusive Golf fees not offered to non Soma Bay Residents. This in general is a big advantage.
The 18 hole Gary Player Championship course has won already several accolades and is well known throughout our feeder markets.
BTN: How has Egyptian tourism been affected by recent political developments in the country and wider Middle East?
FK: Tourism in Egypt dropped tremendously during the month of February. A slight recovery is one the way, but still a far cry from last year or the budgeted figures.
Tour Operators have a wait and see attitude and are still hesitant in committing the necessary flight capacities to Hurghada. General events in North Africa coupled with the still quiet shaky environment in Egypt puts further strain on convincing our partners that all is well and safe.
BTN: Do you feel this is now past?
FK: More needs to be done to secure a safe and sound destination. An aggressive PR campaign might help to generate more awareness and finally bring the Tourists back to Egypt.
Egypt is a beautiful country with wonderful people and has the potential to attract Tourists in much larger numbers as envisioned.
BTN: How have you been countering any downturn in visitor numbers at Sheraton Soma Bay Resort?
FK: Sheraton Soma Bay has a high percentage of repeat clients, full year 45 per cent. These are the customers we are targeting with special offers to come back. We also work closely with our partners leveraging rates and our unique selling points.
Soma Bay has a holistic approach in offering not only superb Hotel accommodations, but also a world renowned Golf course, a leading Spa of the world and a wide range of Water sports Activities. All this is and more is on offer in one destination.
BTN: Talks us through you key sources markets. Are you largely aimed at visitors from the European Union?
FK: Main feeder markets are Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. These four nationalities comprise 80 per cent of our occupancy. We are exploring and developing the Eastern European and the Scandinavian markets at the moment.
Has this been changing of late, with Asian and North American economies recovering quicker than some of those in the EU?
The economic recovery in North America and Asia has a very positive affect on Europe. Yes, we also benefit from this.