Problems on hold
Egypt’s North Coast summer resorts, which stretch uninterrupted over almost 200km west of Alexandria, are currently preparing for the winter hibernation of six to eight months every year. The length of hibernation depends on the nature of every resort and that of its summer residents; the farther they are from the towns, the harder these resorts are to reach. Families with children in schools cannot go on vacations in remote places during the school year, that is during autumn and winter. Anyone on the North Coast last week could not fail to witness the preparations for the end of the summer season; the bustle dims, the crowds dwindle and residential units lose their outside splendour to the protecting covers they are shielded with to protect them from the occasional winter storms. The numbers of vehicles leaving the North Coast far surpasses the incoming ones. All the symptoms indicate the nearing of the closing down of the North Coast for the winter. From October to May, it’s hibernation.
Whereas homeowners on the North Coast do not mind limiting the use of their homes to no more than three months in total every year; economists, investors, and the tourism business lament what they see as a stark waste of prime natural, urban and economic resources.
I already tackled this issue in earlier episodes of “Problems on Hold”, comparing the North Coast to the Red Sea Coast in Egypt, two diametrically opposite cases. Tourism investment on the Red Sea Coast in the east of Egypt and in South Sinai created sustainable investment, development and job opportunities, and poured funds into the GDP. The North Coast, however, created static investment assets that are sold once and frozen into private property of seasonal activity only. The added advantage to the GDP is insignificant.
I find no explanation to the discrepancy between the economic exploitation of the northern and eastern coasts of Egypt but that development in each case was the brainchild of two different mentalities. The East Coast was developed with tourism development in mind, whereas the North Coast was developed with construction and urban development in sight. It brings to my mind a father who divided his wealth between two sons; one invested his share and garnered profits which he again invested, but the other buried his share to preserve it from loss or waste.
The economic miracle on the East Coast relied on long-term legislation that leased—not sold—the land to investors, which was in itself guarantee for serious investment. It was required that no more than 20 per cent of a tourist project would be sold for private ownership, the remaining 80 per cent were operated by the hospitality business. The long stretch of 300km occupied by summer resorts on the North Coast, however, includes just a few, isolated hotels. All other residences are privately owned.
It looks as though the State has finally realised the enormity of its policy in the North Coast. Now we are hearing of a new investment policy that should ensure best use of the unexploited strip of coast between Alamein and Salloum on the westernmost tip of Egypt’s northern border. This is a radical change that stirs the enthusiasm of those concerned with touristic development, and whets the appetite of long-term investors. The new outlook also promises unlimited possibilities when it comes to developing stable local communities that benefit from the foreseen tourist development. More importantly, new projects will exploit to the optimum the natural resources of the North Coast, namely, the enthralling beaches, attractive nature and all-year-round stable climate. If this initiative reaches safe shores, we will move to a more advanced stage of tourism investment to which most Mediterranean States have preceded us, that is ‘Yacht Tourism’. When our shores and resorts become active, vibrant and equipped to accommodate the berthing and sail of yachts, they will surely attract this type of tourism.
7 September 2014