Ancient wonders lure locals

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 July, 1996, 12:00am

Hong Kong tourists are flocking to the Land of the Pharaohs in growing numbers.

Visitors from Hong Kong have increased nearly 400 per cent in three years.

'There is a real tourist boom happening at the moment,' Egyptian Consul-General Ali Maher El-Dali said.

In 1993 only 4,500 tourists from the territory visited Egypt. In 1994, the number was 12,000.

Last year, more than 17,000 locals were marvelling at the great pyramids, the Sphinx and the world's greatest open-air museum at Luxor in upper Egypt.

'The potential is enormous,' Mr El-Dali said. 'Compare the number of visitors from Japan, which is up to 80,000, and Germany, which sends more than 100,000 tourists a year, and you can see Hong Kong still has many possiilities.' Travel agents from the territory have recently been invited on familiarisation tours to help boost interest. Their counterparts from Guangzhou have also been taken on escorted tours.

Mr El-Dali said he expected an entire new tourism market to open after 1997.

'After the handover, we should be seeing a lot more tourists from Guangzhou coming through Hong Kong on their way to overseas destinations,' he said.

'Until now they have had to fly via Beijing, which is very expensive, but after 1997 we should be attracting tourists from all over southern China.' A favoured trip for Hong Kong tourists, Mr El-Dali said, was a Cradle of Civilisation tour, which lets visitors spend a week exploring the ancient relics of Egypt, then continues to Greece and Turkey.

Apart from ancient monuments, Egypt's newly developed Red Sea Riviera is also proving to be a major attraction to tourists. Hundreds of new resorts and hotels have opened along the Red Sea and the gateway to the resort region, Hurghada, is served by its own international airport.

The area is dotted with ancient ports dating back to Pharaonic times, while the desert wilderness inland is home to camel-trading Bedouin tribes, accessible by four-wheel drive adventure tours.

But the main attraction is underwater, for the coast is a treasure trove for divers, with some of the world's best-preserved coral reefs and lagoons.