RETURN TO THE NILE: Sanctuary Retreats on the resurrection of cruising in Egypt

Through cultural differences, language barriers & political turbulence, Egypt remains top of the bucket list for travellers around the world. Even when it was deemed completely unsafe for tourists, they were keen to visit.

Through cultural differences, language barriers & political turbulence, Egypt remains top of the bucket list for travellers around the world. Even when it was deemed completely unsafe for tourists, they were keen to visit.

Now that tension in Egypt has settled, travellers are returning in record numbers, particularly to The Nile where river cruising is becoming increasingly popular.

Among the operators welcoming the resurrection of Egypt’s tourism industry is Sanctuary Retreats, which saw sales of its luxury cruises along the ancient waterway “surge” in recent years.

Pieter van der Schee, the brand’s Global Director of Sales and Marketing, told KARRYON that he believes the pull to the Nile began for many at a young age when they were exposed to its historical importance and current treasures.

He expects demand to continue growing and even recommended travellers book their Nile cruise soon before “the crowds really return in earnest”.

Read on for more of our chat:


Tourism to Egypt has been rocky for some time, how did this affect your river cruises along the Nile?


Sanctuary Retreats is one of only very few cruise lines in Egypt which has continued to operate uninterrupted throughout the past years, and we are delighted this means we were well-prepared to welcome a quickly growing flow of guests returning to explore the spectacular temples, tombs and other treasures along the River Nile.


What security has Sanctuary Retreats put in place to ensure guests cruising on Nile Adventurer & your other ships are safe?


There is a considerable security presence in Egypt, with police and military at key tourism hubs like airports, river docks and museums, and each Sanctuary Retreats group is accompanied by an armed guard.


Recently headlines suggest that “tourists are returning to Egypt”, are you seeing the same trend for your Nile river cruises?


Yes, after several years of slow growth we have experienced a significant surge in bookings in 2018 and 2019, and this is still continuing. So we recommend interested travellers come soon so they have the best chance to see all the treasures at their leisure before the crowds really return in earnest.


At what point over the last few years did it feel as though people’s confidence in Egypt was returning?


I think the real turning point in the level of interest from travellers wanting to visit Egypt occurred in early in 2018, and a big driving factor for us at least was the huge uplift in the number of guests from Australia which is great.


Where do you think this new-found confidence came/comes from?


Well, travellers have been fascinated by mummies, pyramids, King Tutankhamun, plus all the other pharaohs, and the scenery along the River Nile for a very long time – some refer to it as Egyptomania.

Now that calm has returned to Egypt, I think visitors are reassured and keen to visit and see these treasures for themselves.


How are current & forward bookings for the ships?


Current and forward bookings are strong and continue to grow, and Sanctuary Retreats is investing considerably in our boats, our exceptional service, expert Egyptologists and delicious cuisine, to meet this growing demand and create the exceptional experience that we are renowned for.


Have you travelled to the country much recently? How would you describe the environment? Is it safe?


Yes, totally. In order to deliver the most exceptional experiences for our guests, our Sanctuary executives continue to travel in Egypt and they feel safe and very welcome.


Ask anyone to name a few countries on their bucket list and Egypt is bound to come up, why do you think it remains top of everyone’s lists despite its unfortunate recent history?


Most people learn from a young age about all the fascinating history of ancient Egypt through antiquity, and all the beautiful artefacts and structures it created, and dream about seeing it with their own eyes. And when they hear from friends who have visited already, they learn that Egypt really is as wonderful as they dreamt, making the urge to visit unstoppable.

Click here for more on Sanctuary Retreats’ river cruises along the Nile.