Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1376, (11-17 January 2018)
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1376, (11-17 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Russian planes on the horizon

The resumption of flights between Cairo and Moscow will help Egypt’s tourism sector to bounce back this year, reports Safeya Mounir


Russian planes on the horizon
Russian planes on the horizon

Russian flights to Cairo are expected to resume at the start of February after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to this effect. The decision was published on the Russian Legal Information Agency website, with Cairo being the first destination for the Russian flights. Other destinations are expected to follow.

“This is another improvement in the flow of tourists to Egypt,” said Mustafa Khalil, head of the Tourism Committee at the Egyptian-Russian Business Council. He said Putin’s decree was the final stage of the protocol signed between the two countries in mid-December to resume flights between the Egyptian and Russian capitals. 

The Russian market is the first on Egypt’s list, with 2.9 million Russian travellers arriving in Egypt in 2014. Russian flights to Egypt were suspended following the 31 October 2015 crash of a Russian airliner over Sinai that killed all 224 people onboard shortly after leaving Sharm El-Sheikh Airport.

Khalil hopes Egypt will also be able to attract more Russian travellers through cultural tourism in which tourists visit temples and monuments like those in Luxor and Aswan. This kind of tourism was not widespread among Russian tourists before the 2015 ban, but it could be developed. Cultural tourists also typically spend more than those visiting the resorts at Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, Khalil added.

In a separate development that will also help Egypt’s tourism sector, the Vatican recently approved including Egypt on itineraries following the journey of the Holy Family in the region. This should boost religious tourism, especially among Russian tourists.

The tourism sector was dealt a severe blow because of the absence of Russian tourists who previously flocked to Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada. However, last year the sector started to recover with a 55 per cent increase in tourists over 2016.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Tourism, Egypt received 7.5 million tourists from January to November 2017, a 54.7 per cent increase on the same period in 2016.

Hisham Al-Demiri, head of the Tourism Development Authority, earlier said that no promotional campaigns would be launched in the Russian market before the problem of price reductions has been fixed.

However, Khalil said it was a mistake not to launch such campaigns, since they could improve the country’s image and correct misconceptions.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation signed the protocol on Russian flights in mid-December, and each airline is at liberty to recommence its flights at a date suiting its commercial needs. The ministry is scheduled to meet with the airlines again in April in order to lay out plans for the resumption of flights to Egypt’s tourist destinations.  

EgyptAir, Egypt’s flag carrier, has requested that the Russian civil aviation authorities allow three weekly flights from Cairo to Moscow starting 1 February, said Safwat Mosallam, the company’s chairman.

He added that as soon as the request was granted, the flights would accommodate 140 passengers each, like before the 2015 crash. The airline is preparing to send the former head of its Moscow office back to the Russian capital in order to reopen it.

Tamer Nabil, head of the Tommy travel agency which deals with the Russian market, said that Russian tourists depended on discounted flights. Regular undiscounted flights might not attract the previous high numbers, he said.

However, the cheap prices offered on the Russian market do not benefit the tourism sector as much as they might. Packages for Russian tourists before the 2015 ban stood at some $600 on average, including flights and accommodation.

Nabil does not believe prices will increase for Russian travellers as hotels and tourist facilities have often not been renovated since the 25 January Revolution in 2011.

Even if prices are changed, this will not necessarily translate into more money for the sector because the decision to float the Egyptian pound in November 2016 led to hikes in the prices of all commodities, Nabil concluded.

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