Known in Italy as the ‘inventor of Sharm El Sheikh,' Ernesto Preatoni is flying influential Italians at his own expense to boost Egypt’s battered tourism.
A leading Italian investor in Sharm El Sheikh, Ernesto Preatoni has just taken it upon himself to revitalise tourism in Egypt’s battered Red Sea through his campaigns “Sharm El-Sheikh is safe" and "We will not leave," an effort not only to encourage tourists but also to draw “the rich” towards the Arab country.
Preatoni, founder of the the Domina Coral Bay Resort and a pioneering investor in the coastal town, is known in Italy as ‘the inventor of Sharm El-Sheikh’ – there is actually a book under this title – given his prominent role in promoting the city, bringing nearly half a million Italian tourists per year, according to Egypt Daily News. The figure has now dramatically dropped to 11,000.
Last May, Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) announced a whopping drop of 51.7 per cent from 2015, with only 431,800 tourists visiting the country in the month of May.
Setting out to revert the dropping trend, Preatoni plans to organise eight free flights inviting Italian investors, journalists, press, and politicians, to spend an entire week in Sharm El-Sheikh ─ all paid by the investor himself, in a move that represents the biggest privately funded promotion campaign in the history of Sharm El-Sheikh.
The trips will start off on October 2nd and the last trip be on 28th November. “Our aim is not to only target regular tourists, into Sharm el-Sheikh, but to attract rich tourists,” Preatoni told Arab Finance. “Sharm el-Sheikh is a gorgeous city that deserves to be an international destination for wealthy people from Italy and the world. Our initiative aims to invite wealthy Italians who are known for their love of travel and put airline trips directly from the cities of Nablus and Barry to the area to attract the world's rich,” he said, as he announced he would also direct new investments for more than one billion dollars.
Relations between Egypt and Italy have been fluctuating ever since Italian researcher Giulio Regeni was murdered in uncertain circumstances in Egypt. The young student’s parents have pressured the Italian government not to normalise relations.
“I do not understand the loud voices asking to ban traveling from Italy to Sharm El-Sheikh following the death of young Regeni. Crimes will never stop in this world as well as life. Yes, I hope the killers will be brought to justice, but that crime should not prevent us from continuing our work,” he said. Last April, in an interview with Italian media, the investor had said that those requesting a boycott on tourism in Egypt “are idiots”. “This creates an army of desperate people who have no other choice than to join ISIS,” he said.
“Every time a tragedy strikes the country we notice a decrease in guests, and we seem to constantly keep trying to get to where we were before it happened. We haven’t had enough time to fully recover from the revolutions for us to attempt to recover from the plane crash,” Mahmoud El Bas, a captain at the once popular Cocco Beach Club in Sharm told CairoScene earlier in January, as Eihab Boraie wandered through the streets of a seeming ghost town after the Russian plane crash. “Any report that there is a 20 per cent drop, or even 50 per cent, is false. My best guess is that we have gone from 85 per cent to 10-15 per cent occupancies,” a tourism worker added.