The video and publicity campaign aims to encourage inter-Arab tourism, but faces criticism on social media
In what can be described as an attempt to increase Egypt’s Gulf tourists, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Authority (ETPA) have launched a three-month promotional campaign entitled “Misr Qareeba” (Egypt is Close).
The campaign targets the Arab market, according to a Tourism Ministry statement released on Wednesday.
A major celebration attended by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and a number of ministers, ambassadors, governors, celebrities and representatives of the private tourism sector launched the campaign as well its five-minute long video, packed with Egypt’s and the Gulf's most-loved celebrities, all singing along to the tune promising a safe and welcoming Egypt for tourists.
“In the celebration, a singing operetta will be shown, performed by a large number of Arab and Egyptians artists,” said Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou, reported the Daily News Egypt before the celebration on Thursday.
“The campaign will be launched by a specialised company, on social networks and some newspapers, magazines and TV channels in the Gulf region,” added Zaazou.
The minister said the focus on Arab tourism is not a luxury but a necessity, in light of the importance of Arab tourism, the high level of Arab tourists’ spending and length of occupancy, reported the Daily News Egypt.
Zaazou said the Ministry of Tourism had exerted further efforts to attract Arab tourists, since they launched a previous campaign entitled “We Missed You” targeting Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait in May 2014.
The results were an increase of 149.4 percent in tourists coming from those countries from July to December 2014, according to Zaazou.
In what can also be seen as a means to pay lip service to Gulf countries, the launch of the ‘Egypt is Close’ campaign, featuring a Gulf-looking man as the main character of the promotional video, comes a couple of weeks after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called the leaders of Gulf Arab states to reassure them of strong Egyptian-Gulf ties.
A leaked audio recording that purports to show Sisi and senior aides being cynical of their rich Gulf donors and discussing how to get Gulf States to funnel funds to them, had been aired on Mekameleen, a pro-Islamist TV channel, reported Reuters on 9 February.
In the alleged recordings, the man identified as Sisi tells another official: "We need 10 billion to be put in the army's account... and we want 10 like them from the Emirates, and from Kuwait another 10, in addition to a couple of pennies to be put in the central bank and that will complete the 2014 budget."
The man identified as Abbas Kamel, Sisi's office manager at the time of the recording, is heard laughing and then saying "and then he will faint," without identifying who he means.
"Man, they have money like rice," said the man who was identified as Sisi.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have given Egypt over $12 billion in aid since the military toppled Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
The phone calls that Sisi made to the Saudi and Bahraini kings, the Abu Dhabi crown prince and the Kuwaiti emir suggest the significance the Egyptian leader places on his relationship with them, as it is crucial to rebuilding an Egyptian economy laid low by years of political turmoil and Islamist militancy.
"The president affirmed .... the special relationship that the UAE has with the Egyptian people," the state news agency MENA reported, adding that Sisi also emphasised "the strength of relations between the two countries".
The promotional video came under sharp criticism by observers on social media, with many commenting on the ‘degrading’ illustration of Egyptian women.
— أحمد صقر (@_Sa2r_) February 27, 2015
— ツعبدالرحمن عز (@Abdurrahmanezz) February 27, 2015
Translation: Egypt is not a brothel