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Egypt has built a reputation as one of the world's leading travel destinations

By Nick Gosling

Cairo, Egypt: In keeping with the theme of holding its conferences in "transformational" or emerging destinations, the American Tourism Society's Annual Fall Conference was held in Cairo in a country that has shown significant tourism growth over the past several years.

"Over the past 25 years, Egypt has built a reputation as one of the leading travel destinations in the world," said H.E. Mohamed Zoheir Garana, Minister of Tourism for Egypt. "Together, the Egyptian Government and private sector have worked hard to develop tourism as one of the key components of the economy because we truly believe in the power of tourism."

Approximately 50 students from Helwan University in Cairo, 60 local tourism professionals and 56 delegates attended the four-day ATS conference. Delegates were treated to sightseeing tours of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the Mosque of Muhammad Ali and the Pyramids, all organized by Wings Tours and Nile Cruises.

Part of the American Tourism Society's new strategic plan, which was developed in 2006 with the intent of refashioning the organization's 17-year-old mission statement, was the formalization of a Tourism College.

This year, the ATS enhanced its Tourism College with a one-day workshop presentation held at Helwan University. Approximately 400 students from Helwan's Tourism and Hospitality program attended the three workshops, which were taught by ATS members. The workshop topics were chosen by the University.

The ATS has always been involved in education, said ATS President and Executive VP of External Affairs for Tauck World Discovery, Phil Otterson. The new plan is to continue that educational aspect by "talking with local people about what's going to capture the American market, and bring together local professionals and tourism students."

The ATS announced the destination of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a state in northern Germany, as the location of next year's conference. In addition, an ATS partnership with the Tourism Cares organization for next year was announced as well.

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was one of the first seaside resorts on the Baltic, according to Tobias Woitendorf, Head of the Communications for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Tourism Board. The conference will be held at the end of next October at the Kempinski Grand Hotel in Heiligendamm, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern's "white town by the Baltic Sea" and the first German seaside resort.

In selecting Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, ATS Chairman David Parry said the site "fits in [ATS's] idea of transformational," is a relatively unknown area and the ATS partners are there that can pull the conference together. The Kempinski is a premier conference hotel, he added, and one of the most famous hotels in Germany.

The ATS is also looking at future opportunities in Kosovo and the adjoining countries of Albania and Montenegro.

The conference included educational panel discussions by U.S. and Canadian tour operators and tour company presidents, as well as a keynote address by Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and Bruce Beckham, Executive Director of Tourism Cares.

The conference concluded with a five-night Nile Cruise from Aswan to Luxor aboard a brand new Wings Tours and Nile Cruises ship, the M/S Tamr Henna.

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