A long queue of taxi cars was the first thing observed outside Sharm El-Sheikh International Airport, with drivers standing outside their cars hoping to catch a “guest”, in reference to tourists.
“I have two Egyptians with me,” the taxi driver, who has been working in Sharm for 20 years, told the security checkpoint at the airport’s exit.
The situation is harsh, he said. “On Thursdays, we used to see at least 70 flights to Sharm El-Sheikh coming from Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy; now it is all gone,” he added.
Before the Russian plane incident, the driver said he used to make at least six trips from the airport. “Now I only make EGP 150 per day, which I spend on cigarettes and car fuel.”
According to the driver, there are 60 taxi cars working only at the airport. In the whole city, there is an average of 600 taxi cars.
“During the revolution, the situation was better and it was safe,” the driver said, explaining that the violence and shaky state of security did not affect Sharm El-Sheikh.
“Yes, there were international flights coming to take tourists, but they were also bringing guests, now the planes arrive empty,” the driver went on.
“I witnessed several blows to the tourism industry throughout the past 10 years, but this time it is different,” he said.
When asked about the security efforts after the accident, the driver said it has always been strong.
The driver expects all foreigners working in the city to be evacuated if international airlines continue to suspend their flights to Sharm El-Sheikh.
At this time of year, taxi drivers are preparing themselves for the high season, which is the Christmas celebration, when a large number of tourists come to the city to enjoy their holidays. “The Christmas season this year will witness only Egyptians in the city,” he said.
The driver disagreed with the demands on Egyptians to visit Sharm El-Sheikh to boost tourism. “Egyptian tourism will only benefit hotels and travel firms. There won’t be added-value to the country,” he said.
Egyptians who used to continuously come to Sharm El-Sheikh are more beneficial to the drivers, he said. “However, those Egyptians who come only when there are offers don’t pay too much.”
“We will continue waiting for guests; what else we can do?” he said.
Two weeks ago each driver was earning at least EGP 700 per day, working on non-stop flights from 7 am to 3 am, another taxi driver said.
“When Russia issued the decision to suspend flights last week, we saw Russian tourists crying because they didn’t want to leave,” he said.
“We hope things get better, my wife will give birth in two weeks and I just don’t know how it will go,” he said with a pessimistic tone.