As I sit at my desk in Mara House, listening to Celine Dion singing the theme song from “Titanic” I have an email in front of me from someone who is wondering if I am prepared to drop my prices on accommodation or tours during these troubled economic times.
I first came to Egypt on a Budget Travel Package with a group of people I had brought together (a group of single people who didn’t want to holiday alone) and Egypt was the cheapest option!!! We had the most amazing week on a Nile Cruise. The days were sunny, the nights were balmy. I felt like Cleopatra sailing up the Nile under a star-filled sky, that we only see in Ireland on the coldest nights when there are no clouds. The food was outstanding in quality, quantity and diversity. The staff were smiling, friendly and couldn’t do enough for us. Their appreciation of us was a new type of experience for all of us. All in all it was a heavenly experience. There was one problem with that wonderful, heavenly experience – it was way too cheap!
I know this now due to my own business experience here. This is the status quo. The foreign travel agents bargain like Egyptians when it comes to getting the package prices from the Egyptian service providers and travel agents they work through here, the service staff in the hotels and boats work on low wages and count on the tips, the guides work on low wages and count on commission from the various places they take tourists to shop. Yet, on our cruise, every one of these people worked their hearts out for us. Nothing has changed today.
12 years ago Egyptians in the tourist industry were barely scraping a living while wearing a smile and making dream holidays come true for foreigners – year after year they waited for the big pay-off – the huge influx of visitors that would earn them enough to have their own dreams come true. It never, ever happened! There was the Twin Towers Disaster, the Iraq War, the ensuing War on Terrorism, the Dahab and Sharm el Sheikh bombs, the economic downturn of 2009 and 2010, the Egyptian Revolution, the global economic recession. If there was a wobble anywhere in the world it seemed to impact tourism in Egypt.
So, when you have a tourism economy where people are only scraping by – what happens when the industry collapses altogether as it has since Jan 2011? When your back is to the wall there is no maneuverability left. Yes, the big hotel chains have, and are, dropping their prices. The knock-on effect of this is that the providers in the middle price range either drop their price or go out of business, while those at the bottom just shut their doors.
Dropping prices is the worst thing that can be done for the overall tourist industry in Egypt. When your prices are the bottom of the barrel and food/fuel,energy prices are spiralling upwards, how can you ever reach the quality standard position of service? The issue in Egypt is, thanks to international media, a perceived lack of safety not a pricing issue. The global economic collapse has wiped foreign holidays from the minds of 65% of the global population. Egypt’s tourism problem is a completely fictional safety issue in the minds of the remaining 35% of the international community, fuelled by a scoop-scavenging media.
Back to myself and Mara House. I never ever dreamed of getting to no. 1 on TripAdvisor (there for 2 years until the new Hilton was built), or of ever winning any awards. I started by building a block of apts. I was in love with Egypt, the temples, the atmosphere and I wanted those who stayed in the apts. to love it too. I wanted them to see and experience everything at it’s best.
My own initial trip to Egypt was only because I worked on a deal with Budget Travel whereby selling 25 holidays for them I got my own one free! So I had never had a real foreign holiday until then. I valued it like you would value a 24 carat diamond should you find one in the street! Most of the people who stayed with me in those days would never be coming to Egypt again.
My heartfelt desires for those early years’ guests resulted in word of mouth recommendations and reviews on the internet, some newspaper and magazine articles and before I realised it – I had a good internet presence and Mara House changed from a block of apts. into a hotel, added a bar and restaurant, and expanded to offering accommodation in Cairo, where the plan was to establish another Mara House – that is until the Egyptian Revolution knocked us all for six!
You know Rudyard Kiplings poem that goes “If you can keep your hear while all around are losing theirs, …?
- I have a sparkling 24 carat Diamond called Mara House & the Salahadeen Restaurant in the middle of what sometimes looks like a rubbish dump!
- I value that Diamond and the staff that work for me.
- I provide a top quality service in every way possible in the circumstances and events of daily life here. There is much I can do nothing about in that rubbish dump outside – but inside my front door – Mara House is my castle and I am it’s Queen 🙂
- We go the extra mile for our guests and our aim is to make memories and experiences for our guests to remember and cherish.
We are not just offering a bed, a breakfast and a taxi to a temple. We are offering our time, and every moment of our time is a moment of our lives which we are happy to give our guests, our knowledge, our experience and our best intentions for you, our visitors – most of whom go away as friends.
These are times when tourists are afraid to come to Egypt and your ‘safety first’ is our priority. We have extended our operation in these times to bringing tourists from cruise ships at Safaga, from Cairo and from Hurghada on one or two-day trips to Luxor. We are also now taking our guests on one, two or three-day trips to Cairo, where we look after them the entire time from their departure from Mara House, to their sightseeing, eating and walking around Cairo to their return to Mara House.
- Our prices are face value, we don’t try to make money on the side on our tours or our shopping tips.
- Our guides are quality and personable guides who love what they do.
- Our food is second to none and is cooked with love for the food and love for those who are going to sit at our table. It is the exact same food that any Egyptian woman cooks, cooked as she cooks it and presented as she presents it.
- Great love, thought and care goes into decorating, daily cleaning and creating a space which is different to what is on offer everywhere else, a space which is as Arabian as we can make it and at the same time cosy, comfortable and welcoming.
- Our Salahadeen Restaurant and Bar are uniquely decorated and welcoming, and our roof garden a relaxing haven of peace and quiet apart from the call to prayer! 🙂
You can see I am passionate about my visitors, Mara House, my staff, our tours, Egypt and what we do.
I wait for guests who want a quality experience and are happy to exchange their cash for that experience.
We compete on quality of intention, care and service. All of the above is also to remind me, myself what Mara House is and why I am here.
I wish all tourists in Egypt to have a wonderful, exciting, safe, memorable holiday wherever you visit, eat and sleep. And I wait at Mara House for those looking for a “different”, rich and personal experience of us, our neighbours and the city of Luxor.
If you have any questions or wish to make a booking contact Mara directly here