Among the flights that are expected to be launched to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting Sharm El-Sheikh are flights from Azerbaijan to Sharm El-Sheikh that will start operating on November 8, according to South Sinai Governor Khaled Fouda.
South Sinai Governor Fouda revealed on Monday, Oct. 22 that Sharm El-Sheikh attracts global interest, confirming that the city will witness a huge number of tourists, including Russian tourists, in 2018-2019 winter season.
In the same context, many Russian tourism companies expect that once charter flights to Egyptian resorts are resumed by the end of 2018, tourist inflow to several cheap world resorts such as the United Arab Emirates, India, Vietnam, and Thailand will decline.
The tourism sector is one of Egypt’s main foreign currency earners; it has suffered badly from the travel ban that turned the once 100 percent occupied resorts to empty buildings.
Tourist inflow to Egypt peaked in 2010, when 14.7 million tourists visited the country, but the number fell to 4.5 million in 2016.
Russian and British tourists capture the largest portion of tourist inflows to Egypt. According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), the Russian tourist inflow to Egypt reached its peak in 2014, with tourists recording 3.1 million. Following the Russian plane crash, this number plummeted to 2.38 million in 2015.
The British tourist inflow used to range between 800,000 and 1 million tourists, but this number also declined after the suspension of flights to Sharm El-Sheikh. British flights are now limited to the tourist landmarks in the Red Sea and the Upper Egyptian cities of Luxor and Aswan.
Tourism in the whole country has been greatly affected since the uprising that overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The most fatal blow to Egypt’s tourism is that the Airbus A321, operated by Metrojet, crashed over the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015, while carrying Russian tourists returning from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, killing all 224 on board.
Following the incident, both Russia and the UK halted direct flights to Sinai; as a result, Egypt’s tourism revenues have been reduced.
During the 26-month air traffic suspension, a lot of false reports about the expected resumption of direct flights between Egypt and Russia circulated in the media.
During that period, the Egyptian government spared no effort to settle the case and speed negotiations with the Russian side, as well as other countries that imposed a ban on direct flights to Egypt.
Russian authorities always stressed that the resumption of flights would only be possible after Egypt satisfies all the demands of Russian experts on ensuring security at domestic airports.
Since the crash, Egypt has been implementing new, tighter security measures at all of its airports to meet the Russian demands for the resumption of flights, with multiple visits by Russian security to behold changes implemented by the government.
During these visits, the Russian side affirmed that Egyptian aviation authorities have made significant progress in complying with Russia’s aviation safety requirements.
On December 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Cairo for the second time since President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi was sworn into office in May 2014. The visit showed increasing interest from Moscow to boost cooperation with Egypt after the bilateral relations have been up and down.
Asked about the return of direct flights to Egypt, Putin said “The Russian security services have reported to me that, on the whole, we are ready for opening the direct air link between Moscow and Cairo … This would require signing a corresponding intergovernmental protocol.”
On December 15, Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi travelled to Moscow and met Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov.
The two ministers signed an air security agreement that set the required procedures to pave the way for resuming Egypt-Russia air traffic.
“The first flight will likely be launched in February,” said Sokolov.
In mid-December 2017, Russia and Egypt signed an agreement on aviation security and a special protocol on restoring air service between the two countries. Russian President Putin signed the decree on resumption of scheduled flights to Cairo on January 4, 2018.