According Russian transport minister Maxim Sokolov, Russia will resume its flights to Egypt in 2017.
The minister’s announcement comes at a time when Egypt’s tourism market is in a state of atrophy and starved for foreign capital and experts agree that, while the return of the Russian market would aid in tourist numbers, 2017 will probably prove itself not nearly as good of a turnout as the years prior to 2011.
Adel Zaki, a member of the Egyptian Travel Agents Association (ETAA), says that there are many issues, and they are not just limited to the situation with Russia.
Russia had stopped regular flights to the Red Sea governorate following a Metroject crash that killed all 224 on board in October 201 for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility. The impact was immediate for the tourism market, especially in areas like Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada.
Tourism probably will not increase in 2017, but the sector could begin to heal, Zaki noted.
Zaki stated that over the last five years conditions in the tourism market have never been worse and that more than 150 hotels went bankrupt due to tourism’s decline.
He believes that the government must focus on attracting cultural tourism instead of coastal tourism, as a cultural tourist spends more than a tourist on holiday at the beach. The government must promote tourism in Asia, South America and Northern Europe, where tourists want to see museums and spend more money, said Zaki.
Zaki also said that tourists from southern Europe and the United States (US) would not visit Egypt until the majority of political and security problems in the Middle East are solved.
Egypt netted just $500m in tourism revenue in the first quarter of 2016, down from $1.5bn a year earlier, a Tourism Ministry adviser told Reuters, highlighting the country’s struggle to kick-start the key economic sector.
Egypt’s tourism industry, a cornerstone of the economy and critical source of hard currency, has been struggling to rebound after the political and economic upheaval triggered by the 25 January Revolution that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. The Russian aeroplane bombing hobbled an already wounded sector.
Contrary to Zaki’s call for new markets, Elhamy El-Zayat, former president of ETAA, said that attracting tourists from different countries isn’t as easy as it looks.
He believes that tourists from countries like China and India prefer to visit the US and Europe when compared to other tourist destinations around the globe and attracting them to Egypt is not possible in the current circumstances.
Russian and English tourists are the only way for Egypt to regain its place as one of the most attractive countries for tourists, he noted.