The head of the Tourism Investors Association in South Sinai, Hisham Ali, does not see a glimmer of hope that indicates the return of Russian and English tourists to Sharm El-Sheikh before mid-2018.
He said that the Egyptian government has exerted great efforts to review the security at various Egyptian airports in order to resume Russian flights to Egypt, yet Russian authorities still put more roadblocks in the way.
He noted that there are political matters that meddled in the resumption of flights.
Do you see a glimmer of hope in the resumption of Russian flights during the current period?
Russian tourism represented more than a third of the incoming tourism to Egypt until 2015, when Russian flights to Egypt were suspended as a result of the Metro Jet airliner crash at the end of October 2015.
The Egyptian government has taken great measures, whether through the security authorities or the ministries of tourism and foreign affairs, to review the security procedures at the various Egyptian airports, but political matters meddled with the situation.
Tourism has no longer become limited to tourism, but is rather full of political issues. This has recently become clear. Many Russian officials that visited Cairo talked about resuming flights soon.
Yet, the situation looks far from being solved. I do not expect Russian tourism to return to Egypt before the middle of 2018.
Does this mean that the seven lean years on the sector will extend to the mid of next year?
Yes, the sector has suffered a decline since the beginning of 2011 until now. The situation hit rock bottom in 2016, before it turned a corner in the first quarter of the current year.
What is the average occupancy in Sharm El-Sheikh at the moment?
As of last Tuesday, the occupations ranged from 50% to 60%, which would drop by half after Egyptian families return to their work when the holidays end.
Recently, there has been an influx of German, Ukrainian, and Eastern European tourists specifically to visit resorts in Sharm el-Sheikh.
I say with confidence that the region is safe. The authorities, with all agencies, are cooperating in the fight against terrorism. Egypt is also not the only country in the world suffering from terrorism; all countries now see bombings every now and then.
Have you noticed any decline in bookings following the bombings in Tanta and Alexandria?
There has not been a drop in incoming bookings for Sharm El-Sheikh resorts. As I mentioned, there has even been an improvement in the influx of tourists from central and Eastern European countries.
Over the past few days, Ukrainians have exported tourists to the region, followed by Germans, Italians, Lebanese, and various Arab nationalities.
Is there a difference in the average prices in Sharm El-Sheikh resorts during the current period?
Of course, there has been a big change since the government’s decision to float the pound. This made Egypt an excellent destination for foreigners. As for Egyptians, it is different because there is a rise in prices compared to the pre-flotation period.
It was a wise decision by the government to float the pound. Tourism is an export commodity eventually consumed by foreigners living on Egyptian soil.
International tourism experts believe that Egypt may cut off a good part of European tourism to Spain and Greece as a result of raising prices and because of the tensions between the EU and Turkey. How do you see that?
These expectations are based on the resumption of Russian flights to Egypt again. I see this differently; those who cannot afford prices in Spain or Greece will visit other destinations, but not Egypt.
This comes despite the average price of a room in Sharm El-Sheikh ranging between $50 and $60, which is very suitable for all segments of tourists.