The resumption of direct flights between Russia and Egypt will see an influx of tourists in 2018 that will restore the Arab country’s tourism sector, Egypt’s government hopes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on January 4 for the resumption of flights between Moscow and Cairo. Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said direct commercial flights could resume in mid-February, the New Arab reported.
“The local tourism sector suffered greatly because of the flight suspension,” said Mostafa Khalil, deputy head of the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Tourism. “Tourist establishments have high hopes that the resumption of flights from Russia will help the sector recover.”
Russia suspended flights to Egypt in November 2015 after one of its passenger planes was bombed over Sinai after take-off from Sharm el- Sheikh, resulting in the death of all 224 passengers and crew members on board.
The Russian flight suspension caused a huge loss to Egypt’s tourism sector. Before 2015, approximately 3 million Russian tourists visited the country every year. The Russian decision encouraged Western governments, including the United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany, to take similar moves, which exasperated the situation.
Egyptian tourism revenues amounted to $6.1 billion in 2015 but dropped to $3.4 billion in 2016. Tourism revenues rose to $7.2 billion last year with hopes that, with the resumption of flights from Russia, revenues will return to pre-2011 figures. Egypt’s tourism revenues for 2010 — one year before the revolution that ousted longstanding President Hosni Mubarak, totaled $12.5 billion.
In 2010, Egypt’s tourism sector employed about 12% of the overall workforce. An estimated 14.7 million tourists, mostly from Europe, visited the country that year. The latest figures indicate that fewer than 6 million tourists visited Egypt during the first nine months of 2017 and 5.4 million visited the country throughout 2016.
The decrease in tourism revenues exposed major vulnerabilities in the Egyptian economy, particularly the cost of maintaining Egypt’s museums and antiquities.
Putin allowed the resumption of flights to Egypt three weeks after Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi signed a protocol for cooperation on airport security with the Russians.
The protocol was signed after Egyptian authorities had spent months improving security at national airports. The government said it revolutionized security systems inside airports to ensure that tourists visiting the country would be safe.