Dahshour, a new tourism destination in Egypt
UNWTO is currently implementing the tourism component of the project “Mobilization of the Dahshour World Heritage Site for Community Development”. The project, which was launched in April 2009 and will conclude in March 2013, is financed through the contribution made by the Government of Spain to establish the Millennium Development Goals Fund (MDG-F). Five UN Agencies (UNESCO, UNDP, UNIDO, ILO and UNWTO) are collaborating with national institutions (Ministry of Tourism, Supreme Council of Antiquities, Social Fund for Development, Industrial Modernization Centre and Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency) to support the reduction of human development disparities, with special reference to addressing the gender gap and achieving environmental sustainability.
The project strategy works in two dimensions; first to reduce poverty of the local communities in Dahshour, and second to enhance the national institutional capacities so as to better protect and manage the archaeological and natural resources of the area. Dahshour is an agricultural community comprising five traditional villages to the South of Cairo which is home to the incredible Black, Bent and Red Pyramids (Sneferu Pyramids). Moreover, Birket Dahshour, a seasonal wetland, is situated directly to the southeast of the Dahshour Pyramids and attracts wintering birds. This unique mix of natural and cultural resources provides great potential for Dahshour to become a self-contained, high quality tourism, holiday and resort destination easily reachable from Cairo. Therefore, tourism development is central to all the main project activities, since it can play a fundamental role in creating sustainable livelihoods for the local communities, and provide the framework for the sustainable use and management of cultural and natural resources, as well as fostering the practice of local lifestyles.
UNWTO, in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism has elaborated a Strategic Spatial Framework for Sustainable Tourism Development in Dahshour which goes in line with the National Sustainable Tourism Development Plan of Egypt and the Greater Cairo Development Project and provides guidance to the national institutions for the development and management of tourism plans for the natural and cultural resources of Dahshour, including the traditional rural lifestyles. It contains an in-depth analysis of the current tourism situation in Dahshour; evaluates its potential; identifies tourism products and markets for the short, medium and long term; and, recommends the creation of the Dahshour Rural Tourism Cluster. The Framework was approved by unanimous acclamation at a validation Workshop which brought together over 120 stakeholders, thus generating wide participation and ownership of the project with local community leaders including parliamentarians, senators and mayors of the five villages. In fact, as a result of the approval of the Strategic Spatial Framework, TDA has committed LE 50 million towards improved infrastructure for tourism in Dahshour including the setting up of a Visitor’s Centre and paving of roads and highways.
Moreover, UNWTO is contributing to the development of sustainable tourism activities. Initially, a training needs analysis was carried out following a participatory approach which provided guidance on the skills more needed by the tourism sector. Train-the-trainer sessions followed for 82 local experts (43 men and 39 women) and training materials were developed. Subsequently, training courses were carried out on waste management, English language, customer care, hospitality skills, tourism awareness and tourism SME development, which involved over 3,000 people (2,067 men and 1,176 women, representing over 50 SMEs). Additionally, in-depth trainings for 25 tour guides were carried out.
Recent missions by UNWTO have concentrated on readying the touristic assets for the domestic and international marketplace. Tour circuits have been designed and the infrastructure required, predominantly signage and landscaping, has been mapped and costed, with the implementation stage set to begin shortly. Lastly, approaches have been made to key national tour operators to not only promote Dahshour to their international markets, but to actively participate in the implementation and testing of the circuits, thereby utilising the commercial skills of a key section of the target market to maximise the attractiveness of the Dahshour circuits. These circuits form a base from which to promote half day, full day and multi-day itineraries to the domestic and international tourism markets. Therefore, it is envisioned that the Dahshour Rural Tourism Cluster will soon become an integrated living and viable nature, history, rural and village culture sanctuary; a prime destination on the Greater Cairo Tourism Circuit.