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Building bridges and unlocking potential: Reflecting on the AFASU trade mission to Egypt

AFASU_Team
L-R: Mr. Alain St. Ange - Seychelles former Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Major General Khaled Fouda - Governor of South Sinai, Dr. Jens Thraenhart - Founding Partner & CEO of Chameleon Strategies and editor of BalancedTourism.com, Theodore Koumelis - Co-Founder & CEO of TravelDailyNews Media Network.

Discover the transformative AFASU trade mission to Egypt, fostering collaboration between African and Asian tourism sectors. Uncover insights on Egypt’s tourism potential, sustainable practices, and educational initiatives driving industry innovation.

In a recent and notable initiative under the auspices of the Afro-Asian Union (AFASU), a delegation comprising esteemed leaders in the tourism and travel industry, including Seychelles former Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine Mr. Alain St. Ange, Mr. Theodore Koumelis, CEO of Travel Daily News, and myself, Dr. Jens Thraenhart, Founding Partner & CEO of Chameleon Strategies and editor of BalancedTourism.com, embarked on a trade mission to Egypt. Our host, Dr. Hossam Darwish, President of AFASU, orchestrated this venture with a vision to fortify connections between Africa and Asia in the realms of tourism, culture, and e-commerce. As a participant in this trade mission to Egypt, I had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the immense potential for this historic nation to solidify its position as a global leader in tourism, technology, and sustainable development. This mission served as a catalyst for collaborative action and the exchange of innovative ideas.

AFASU Board Meeting

AFASU Board Meeting in Cairo, Egypt put together a detailed action plan.

The AFASU Board of Directors meeting, coinciding with the mission, under the chairmanship of Dr. Adel Almuslimany, emphasized the important mandate and put together a detailed action plan.

The Mandate of AFASU: A Bridge Between Continents
AFASU_Team

L-R: Dr. Hossam Darwish – President of AFASU, Mr. Alain St. Ange – Seychelles former Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Major General Khaled Fouda – Governor of South Sinai, Dr. Jens Thraenhart – Founding Partner & CEO of Chameleon Strategies and editor of BalancedTourism.com, Bushra Ghali – Businessman, Founder of MUSE Online Booking Platform, Theodore Koumelis – Co-Founder & CEO of TravelDailyNews Media Network.

AFASU’s core mission is to serve as a catalyst for fostering collaboration and development between African and Asian countries, offering a unique platform for countries to collaborate and harness the immense potential within these regions. Egypt, as a historical and cultural powerhouse, holds a significant role within this vision. This initiative is vital in today’s globalized world, where understanding and cooperation between different regions are paramount. The trade mission to Egypt is a testament to AFASU’s commitment to this cause, specifically aimed at exploring and enhancing the tourism sector’s potential.

Egypt’s Opportunity: A Local Approach to Global Connectivity

One key takeaway was the potential for Egypt to develop a robust online travel agency (OTA) with a distinctly local focus. Our delegation was invited to give our thoughts at the announcement of the Muse digital platform in Cairo, to an audience of TV, government, and travel industry. Developing public-private partnerships like these are the foundation of a resilient travel and tourism ecosystem of any destination.  This transformative platform could empower Egyptian tourism providers to connect directly with global travelers, showcasing the vast array of authentic experiences that go far beyond the iconic pyramids and temples. By promoting lesser-known destinations, unique cultural encounters, and locally-owned businesses, Egypt can reduce economic leakage and retain a greater share of tourism revenue within its borders. This successful model echoes the groundbreaking initiatives like BookBarbados.com, which has driven notable benefits for tourism stakeholders in the Caribbean. This approach not only promises to enrich the tourist experience but also aims to retain more revenue within the country, Innovative technology to inspire travelers leveraging artificial intelligence, video, and collaborative campaign executions are to be strategic pillars, to drive service, trust and safety of the destinations.

Sharm El Sheikh: A Beacon of Safe and Green Tourism

Sharm-el-Sheikh

I was honored to witness AFASU’s formal recognition of Sharm El Sheikh as a safe tourism destination and the exceptional leadership of the Governor of South Sinai, Major General Dr. Khaled Fouda in promoting sustainable practices in the region, highlighting the commitment of Egypt to provide a secure and welcoming environment for travelers. Sharm El Sheikh’s commitment to green tourism and safety protocols sends a powerful message to the global travel community, setting a benchmark for destinations striving for long-term success. The city has taken significant steps towards sustainability and minimizing its ecological impact. By showcasing its commitment to green practices, Sharm El Sheikh has positioned itself as a leading destination in the field of sustainable tourism, particular after hosting COP27 in 2022. Furthermore, it is crucial to emphasize the uniqueness of Sharm El Sheikh and its vast potential as a tourism destination. Its unique positioning as a haven for both nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts, along with its accessibility and welcoming infrastructure, make it a destination to watch in the years to come. The city’s unique position, nestled between the desert and the sea, offers a blend of natural beauty, cultural depth, and innovative tourism practices, the region has much to offer beyond the Pyramids. By promoting the concept of combining civilization and tourism, Egypt can attract travelers seeking immersive experiences that go beyond the traditional tourist trail.

Inspiring the Next Generation: The Role of Education

Dalat University

An integral part of our mission focused on engaging with the young generation, fostering talent within the tourism and travel industry through education. Education and talent development play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the tourism and travel industry. During the trade mission, hosted by the Dean of Sadat University, Professor Noha Azmy, and the Director of the Hospitality and Tourism program, Professor Heba Gaafar, we had the opportunity to engage with students and faculty at Sadat City University, inspiring and fostering talent within the sector as Mr. Alain St. Ange and I had the privilege of giving a guest lecturing. I was able to present my six-pillar strategy to achieve balanced tourism growth, leading to a sustainable and regenerative tourism destination leveraging digital, data, and artificial intelligence to execute collaborative storytelling campaigns and building passionate micro-niche communities. Mr St. Ange focused his remarks on the importance of developing a powerful public-private sector policy framework that emphasized the safety and crisis management of the destination, to create trust and confidence with travelers. This experience highlighted the importance of inspiring and educating future leaders in tourism, ensuring the sustainable growth and innovation of the industry.

Beyond the Pyramids: Egypt’s Rich Tapestry of Experiences
A bedouin with his camel

A bedouin with his camel at the newly build Safari park in Sharm el Sheikh.

Egypt is renowned for its ancient civilization and iconic Pyramids, yet the country offers much more to the discerning traveler. Egypt’s potential as a tourism destination extends far beyond its world-renowned landmarks, and the country in Northern Africa can create a compelling narrative that resonates with history travelers, cultural explorers, and tourists seeking meaningful immersion. Our discussions, including conversations with Government Ministers in Egypt, including the Vice Minister of Tourism, HE Ghada Shalaby, we emphasized the need to showcase Egypt’s diverse local experiences, intertwining the richness of its civilization with the vibrancy of its tourism offerings. This concept of combining civilization and tourism is pivotal, as it invites travelers to immerse themselves in the depth of Egypt’s cultural heritage while enjoying its contemporary attractions, and enable visitors an unparalleled blend of historical riches, cultural immersion, and authentic encounters with its people. It was discussed for Sadat University to take a leadership role in becoming a hub of Civilization and Tourism, and Egypt establishing a Center to bring together the public and private sectors from all over the world from iconic sites including Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Great Wall of China to Machu Pichu in Peru and the Taj Mahal in India. While heritage encompasses the tangible and intangible legacies of the past, from monuments and traditions to knowledge systems, providing a window into history and identity, civilization focuses on grand historical societies, their achievements, and the ruins they leave behind, drawing tourists fascinated by ancient wonders, and emphasize responsible practices to ensure the preservation for generations to come.

Conclusion

The AFASU trade mission to Egypt marks a significant step towards realizing the untapped potential of Egypt’s tourism sector. By building bridges between Africa and Asia, fostering local talent, and embracing innovative approaches to tourism, we can unlock new avenues for cultural exchange, economic development, and sustainable tourism practices.

The future of Egyptian tourism is bright. By strategically harnessing technology, prioritizing sustainable development, and empowering its next generation of leaders, Egypt is poised to become a model for responsible, regenerative tourism that drives economic prosperity and cultural pride for all stakeholders. Egypt’s journey towards becoming a leading destination for travelers seeking authenticity, safety, and sustainability is well underway, promising a brighter future for its tourism industry and its people. I applaud AFASU for facilitating missions like these which are critical to give tourism ministries and tourism authorities an outside view from former tourism board CEOs and tourism ministers – a service that we are about to launch as part of the Chameleon Strategies Advisory.

Dr. Jens Thraenhart during meetings

Founding Partner - Chameleon Strategies | Website | + Posts

With over 30 years of global travel and tourism expertise, Dr. Jens Thraenhart is the Founding Partner of 25-year-old bespoke strategy consulting firm Chameleon Strategies, the 2nd Vice Chair of the World Tourism Organization’s UNWTO Affiliate Members, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism Marketing, Inc. (Visit Barbados), the former Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, the founder of private-sector-led tourism marketing organization Destination Mekong, and former Board Member of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

Previously active in China, in 2009, he co-founded acclaimed marketing agency Dragon Trail and published the China Travel Trends books and website. Jens has also held leadership positions with Destination Canada and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts (now Accor).

As founder of the Destination Film Forum, he is also a big proponent of the power of storytelling, having been recognized as one of the top 10 Most Influential Leaders in Travel in 2022 by Travel Vertical, ranking first in the category of Creativity and Brand Storytelling, and served on the Jury of the Cannes Lion International Film Awards.

Other recognitions for his work include being one of the travel industry’s top 100 rising stars by Travel Agent Magazine in 2003, one of HSMAI’s 25 Most Extraordinary Sales and Marketing Minds in Hospitality and Travel in 2004 and 2005, one of the Top 20 Extraordinary Minds in European Travel and Hospitality in 2014, and honored as one of the Global Travel Heroes in 2021.

He completed his Doctor in Tourism Management at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and graduated from Cornell University with a Masters in Hospitality Management.

He publishes his three tourism industry blogs: (1) Tourism-Campaigns.com; (2) BalancedTourism.com; (3) PurposePicks.com.

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