Egypt The Future: One on One with Amr Badr, Abercrombie & Kent
Besides his role as managing director of Abercrombie & Kent Egypt and the Middle East, Amr Badr is also part of the Egyptian business community and a member of AmCham Egypt, the American Chamber of Commerce Egypt, which promotes investment and business exchange between Egypt and the U.S.
TravelPulse interviewed Amr Badr while he was attending Egypt The Future, a conference that was held March 13-15 in Sharm el Sheikh to promote international investment in Egypt.
The conference took place in an environment of recovery of the Egyptian tourism industry. September of 2014 saw twice as many tourists as September 2013. In the period from July through September 2014, Marriott International's Revenue Per Available Room increased by 15 percent and occupancy was up by 9.6 percent. The return of economic activity in the tourism sector prompted Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism to undertake new projects that have resulted in increased foreign currency coming into the country.
TravelPulse: What is Egypt The Future?
Amr Badr: This was part of an initiative that was called for by the Friends of Egypt starting from the late Saudi king when he called for it in his famous letter to support Egypt and the transition of Egypt after the June 30 Revolution. It was a love letter to the Egyptian people and the Egyptian government urging the world to support Egypt and support the government and to help raise the inspiration of creation.
The idea started with the Saudis and the Emiratis and the Kuwaitis, basically all the Gulf States with exception of Qatar, wanting to stand by Egypt and support it. At first it was called the Egypt Goers conference. But then that name didn’t seem appealing to many Egyptians and therefore after several developments of the name it was changed to Egypt The Future.
The reason it’s called Egypt The Future is that they intended to showcase where Egypt is going, what projects are needed in Egypt, what’s the investment climate like in Egypt and what’s the legislative part. It's also building the case for investing in Egypt. It’s an opportunity for Egypt to showcase itself and its capabilities, to bring out what the Egyptians can do to open up foreign investment, foreign business, to show how the private sector and the public sector are cooperating to invest in Egypt.
TP: In what capacity are you attending the conference?
AB: I am involved in The Egypt-US Business Council, the leading advocacy organization representing America's top companies doing business with Egypt. The council is made up of senior executives of U.S. companies from every business sector that are major investors in Egypt. The mission is to help support business between the two countries for the public and private sectors, mainly the private sector.
It was founded in the late ‘90s when President Clinton appointed Al Gore, his Number Two, to set up his Egypt initiative, a joint commission between the U.S. and Egypt headed by President Mubarak and the former vice president of U.S.
That changed when Bush came into White House. It went a step down and became primarily between the private sector from the U.S. end and the Egyptian end. However, the Egyptian government continued to operate the council as part of the Ministry of Trade.
TP: What are you seeing now in terms of the state of Egypt’s tourism industry compared to a year ago?
AB: It’s much better, I would say. It’s still a recovering year. We’re seeing a lot of good signs. We’re seeing a lot of requests and tourist arrivals. It certainly is better than a year ago or two years ago or three years ago. It’s not yet recovered, but it’s in the recovery process. It’s much better year on year. We feel that the demand on Egypt has increased a lot. We hope it continues to increase even further.
We’re seeing recovery in certain segments, like the small group business, the FIT business. The cruise business is not where it should be, but partly that is because of a lot of concern about regional affairs, in Yemen and ISIL and so forth. There’s a lot of concern on that side of the business.
TP: When were Egypt’s best years for tourism?
AB: Back in 2008 those were golden years in terms of traffic from U.S. and other global markets. 2010 was also a very strong year. 2015 is a recovery year, as I have described it. Our expectation is that the business should pick up to normal cycles in 2016.
TP: What is the mission of The Egypt-U.S. Business Council?
AB: We are supporting the bilateral in terms of trade, business exchange, development opportunities and investment opportunities. We are partners with the American Chamber of Commerce on all the work we do together. The American Chamber of Commerce is a much larger organization. We are more focused on policies. Our aim is to encourage more Americans to invest in Egypt. We are working with the government and with stakeholders to find ways to get that relation up and running.
TP: Are you taking steps to combat the bad PR about Egypt in the U.S. now?
AB: That’s definitely part of our focus, getting good PR for Egypt, to position Egypt in the right way, explain the Egyptian narrative and promote the Egyptian narrative politically, economically and socially.
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