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Research on Barrier-free Tourism in Egypt

Hussayn Hilal with family and friends at the Graduation Ceremony

TU Berlin Campus El Gouna provides a closer look at the academic work and excellent research of Hussayn Hilal, an urban developer and recent Master's graduate.

Hilal, who worked in the field of Information Technology for the US-based company Hewlett Packard for more than three years, set aside his corporate life and set-out to build the prospects of a career in urbanism. With his multidisciplinary background he joined the Master's program in Urban Development at Campus El Gouna in 2012. “After improving my academic skills with the Master's degree from TU Berlin, I am looking for more professional experiences now”, the 29-year old young professional from Cairo explains.

Hilal graduated with a Master's thesis titled “Barrier-free planning in outdoor public space and its effect on tourism and businesses with specific reference to El Gouna”, a milestone in interdisciplinary and innovative research. For his achievements he was awarded the prize for the best Master's thesis of the class of 2014 in the Urban Development program.

With its interdisciplinary and practice orientated research methods, TUB Campus El Gouna fosters the career prospects of young professionals and encourages students to use the research opportunity of their Master's thesis to explore possible solutions for the prevailing challenges in their field of study. Hilal utilized this opportunity to the fullest. In his thesis he points out that millions of people with different abilities who live in and travel to Egypt suffer from poor accessibility. Subsequently, his research focuses on barrier-free planning, i.e. the right to accessibility for differently-abled people and their potential effects on Egypt's tourism market. Hilal, a wheelchair user himself, highlights “the potentials of the accessible tourism market and showcases the economic returns of addressing this market”. He illustrates the different layers of accessibility and the problems that differently-abled people face in Egypt and other countries.

“Provision of adequate accessibility comes through removing the barriers that limit or reduce the range of accessibility”, he writes. In his conclusion he proves that “businesses that provide improved accessibility expand their client base and recognize significant economic returns. This is particularly evident in the tourism industry, where the accessible tourism market was identified as one of the most rewarding.”

Hilal’s research is a milestone in developing Egypt’s tourism industry. According to his field study in El Gouna, the town is found to be moderately accessible, yet far from being labelled barrier-free. Due to the unique nature of El Gouna as well as the positive attitudes of business owners toward Hilal's idea, the transformation into a more barrier‐free town is seen as a rather unpretentious task, compared to other destinations in Egypt, and would lead to significant economic benefits for the industry.

Recognizing the enormous potential of the segment, Hilal’s long term ambition is to establish a consultancy office for barrier-free planning in Egypt.

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