Russia and Egypt to Resume Flights

For decades, Egypt has been one of the top holiday destinations for international tourists. However, a range of political misfortunes, church bombings, airline disaster, and terrorist attacks coalesced to harm the tourism and economy of the country. International flight bookings to Egypt reduced and tourists were compelled to look for alternative holidaying destinations.

The unsuccessful revolution of 2011 and the military’s violent reassertion of power hindered the growth of Egypt’s tourism market. Tourists were sent back to their nations and luxury resorts turned into abandoned spots. Further, the country’s historical sites, museums, and parks witnessed trouble, with several of them looted, deserted, and artifacts stolen. In 2014, a car bombing caused the destruction of the façade and exhibits at the Museum of Islamic Art, leading to its closure for up to two years.

The situation was worsened in 2015 after the Islamic State downed a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, killing all 224 the people on board, where most of them were tourists.  Following the incident, Russia put a ban on every air travel to Egypt due to security issues. Consequently, the number of foreign tourists reduced drastically from 14.7 million in 2010 to 5.4 million in 2016, and revenue from tourism dropped by two thirds, from $11.6 billion in 2010 to $3.8 billion in 2016, according to the Egyptian Central Bank.

In 2017, terrorists stabbed tourists in the Red Sea town of Hurghada, killing two and leaving four wounded. Furthermore, devastating attacks on churches in the seaport of Alexandria and the city of Tanta spoiled Egypt’s image as a favorite tourist hub.

According to a recent news, Russia and Egypt are likely to resume direct flights on April 11, 2018, following the Russian airline attack over the Sinai Peninsula. The move is a welcome step towards the recovery of the country’s tourism and economy.

On the evening of April 11, an Aeroflot plane is due to take off from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport to Cairo, carrying about 120 passengers. It is a first step towards restoring flights to holiday destinations on the Red Sea. On April 12, Egyptair will restart its service between the two capitals, and the two companies will simultaneously implement five return flights between Moscow and Cairo a week.

However, Russian officials said that the restoration of flights between Moscow and Cairo will not help the tourism industry. “Tourists do not need direct flights to Cairo. The transfer from Cairo to sea resorts is long and uncomfortable, and no one will be going there in that way,” said Irina Tyurina, spokeswoman for Russian Tourism Industry.

She said that most Russians who want to pay a visit to the Red Sea areas are likely to continue booking flights through Minsk or Istanbul, as direct flights are suspended. And therefore, Egypt is not yet back as a tourist destination for Russia.

According to Ihab Nasr, the Egyptian ambassador to Russia said that Moscow and Cairo are expected to decide on a date to discuss the revival of flights to tourist destinations in Egypt once flights between the two capitals have resumed.

Russian officials showed concerns about direct flights being restarted. “The resumption of direct flights to Egypt, especially to resort areas, is a great worry for us,” said Aleksandr Neradko, head of the Russian Federal Air Navigation Authority.

Eight Russian experts are expected to be sent to Cairo airport to see that security measures are being implemented on flights towards Moscow, according to Al-Ahram, the Egyptian daily.