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Reeling from the loss of tourism due to the region's chronic violence and bloodshed, Egypt is seeking to change its public image for the better and lure back visitors. The solution? Head to Manhattan.
According to an Al-Monitor report, NYC-based advertising agency J. Walter Thompson Co. (JWT) has signed a $68 million, three-year contract with the Arab nation to run a worldwide public relations campaign.
The agency has worked with Egypt before, but since the Jan. 2009 revolution, the Ministry of Tourism handled promotion, Al-Monitor said.
As Elhamy el-Zayat, chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, conveyed to Al-Monitor, it's all a matter of perception: "Improving Egypt's tourism sector depends on improving the view of the country's domestic situation, as many countries believe that Egypt has no security or stability for the time being."
He asserted, "The biggest challenge for Egypt is to shift this perspective, especially since Egypt is the heart of the Arab world, which has now become a source of news of violence in the world."
Zayat also said to Al-Monitor that the terror attack in Sousse, Tunisia at the end of June did no favors for Egyptian tourism, but has confidence in the agency's prowess, stating, "JWT will be able to respond to all that is being said about Egypt in foreign markets, because it is one of the world's largest companies in the public relations and advertising field."
Social media will play a key role in this uptick of positive Egypt promotion. Amal al-Masri, chief strategy officer for Lebanon-based JWT-Middle East Africa, said to Al-Monitor that JWT "will focus on social media sites in its work in promoting the country, as they are the most effective now, and would affect tourists' decisions in choosing their destinations."
Through these channels, Al-Masri said to Al-Monitor that they would also be responding to criticism and providing counterpoint to "abusive news distorting Egypt's image in case of terrorist incidents…" but was quick to add that the positive aspects of the country would be emphasized.
There are plans to take famous bloggers to famous Egyptian sites, called "an excellent way of advertising" by Al-Masri to Al-Monitor.
Al-Masri did say that "conventional marketing methods" like television and newspaper ads would also be used, "but to a lesser extent than social media marketing."
Egyptian Tourism Minister Khaled Ramy has said, according to Al-Monitor, that Egypt aims to draw 20 million tourists by 2020.
And there has been some increase despite the doom and gloom.
For 2015, the desired tourist number is between 11 and 11.5 million with a target revenue topping $9 billion. Comparing the first half of 2015 with the same span in 2014, Egypt's tourism revenues have risen 3.1 percent and the number of tourists has increased by 8.2 percent.
The key to sustaining and growing these numbers, as Zayat emphasized to Al-Monitor, is cultural tourism. "Increasing the number of tourists in Egypt necessitates giving attention to cultural tourism, such as temples and museums, instead of focusing on beach resorts and coastal cities only," he said.
"Tourists from the U.S. and Canada are particularly interested in cultural tourism, in addition to some countries in South America, India, China and Australia. Thus, Egypt ought to be promoted in such countries."
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