Best Way To Promote Tourism In the Middle East And Africa: Host American Cops
How to combine vacation with a cause
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
When it comes to tourism, Americans are leading the way in total size and spend per visit. According to recent stats from the National Travel and Tourism Office, 2016 saw an increase of more than 8 percent in the number of American citizens traveling to international destinations. In 2016, a total of 67 million U.S. citizens traveled outside the country, compared to the 61.7 million who did the previous year. On average each American traveling abroad spent $1,900 in 2016 with the number expected to rise in 2018.
Many countries rely on tourism as a main source of revenue, which supports important infrastructure projects as well as local businesses. Egypt is one of them - with slightly over 8 million international visitors in 2017 generating about 10% of the country's GDP. It is a far cry from 14.7 million visitors in 2010 and a previous tourism revenue of $12.5 bln. However, it is a good start and recovery for a country that needs it. One of the main concerns of Americans traveling to the Middle East and Africa is safety. Egypt has had her fair share of violence and instability in the last few years, which media in the U.S. often times exaggerated, creating a perception that the country is unsafe for visitors.
So, this year Egypt was creative. To showcase that the country is open for tourism and a safe place to travel to, it welcomed about 100 NYPD and Nassau County officers to experience it in full. From Cairo to Luxor to Hurghada, American police officers had a chance to experience Egypt at its best. One of the co-organizers of the trip was Pierre Girgis, a Capital One business banker of Egyptian descent. He partnered with Egyptian authorities and a local MTS, a non-profit NYPD fraternal organization with a desire to promote tourism in his country of birth, which allowed New York's Finest to see Egypt in a different light. "We did this to promote peace and to enhance a deeper relationship between the people of the U.S. and Egypt. Even though this was an unofficial trip, it still carried an important international message of hope and cooperation," stated Girgis. Egyptian authorities went as far as introducing trip participants to local dignitaries and even to the Mayor of Luxor, showcasing Egyptian culture and hospitality along the way.
There are the three things that other international destinations can learn from this trip:
Trust Is Built Face-To-Face
Nothing can substitute face-to-face interactions. The trip proved that regardless of language and cultural differences, Americans and Egyptians understand each other much better when they share a plate of hummus and falafel. Of course, it tastes even better with a nice cold Pepsi, which they serve in a glass bottle in Egypt.
Since the trip was under careful supervision of the Egyptian authorities with local police assuring protection of the visitors, many U.S. officers had a chance to experience work of their counterparts in Egypt. Captain Peter Andrea of the Central Park Precinct (NYPD) who was one of the trip participants was very impressed with Egyptian police: "Being that we are from the opposite end of the globe, I was happily surprised to witness the fraternalism of the Egyptian officers in respect to their treatment of our law enforcement officers."
American tourists love experiencing foreign cultures. They embrace new things, especially those that are completely unavailable in their home country. From camel rides, to Bedouin dinners in the middle of a desert, to diving in the Red Sea, Egypt has many things to offer. All these experiences were accompanied by great story-telling and cultural immersion by Misr Tourism tour guides, which literally translates as Egypt Travel.
Police Officers Are Important Influencers
The idea of showcasing safety by hosting U.S. law enforcement officials to an African country is quite courageous. However, law enforcement are important influencers. All armed with iPhones and GoPro cameras, police officers became de facto journalists spreading news to their friends and families that Egypt is open for tourists. It was a perfect vacation fostering partnership between the two countries on the individual level.
Even though the trip was unofficial, the relationships that were built among participants and with Egyptians were real. Many officers promised to come back with their families, because nothing beats seeing the wonders of the pyramids and the Sphinx live. Albeit quite non-traditional, other countries could learn from this experience and use it as a marketing case-study,
All individuals quoted in this article participated in the trip as civilians. Their quotes do not represent their company or organization's opinions.