CAIRO: Flights bringing tourists from Russia to Egypt’s Red Sea resorts arrived yesterday for the first time since the October 2015 jihadist bombing of a Russian airliner, officials said. Moscow barred direct flights to Egypt after the bombing of the passenger plane shortly after it took off from the popular resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.
Yesterday morning’s EgyptAir flight from the Russian capital brought 300 tourists to the resort town of Hurghada, an Egyptian civil aviation official said. A second flight later landed in Sharm el-Sheikh, where Russia’s ambassador to Egypt and the provincial governor welcomed the passengers, an airport source said. EgyptAir CEO Amr Abulenein told AFP the national carrier would be operating a total of seven flights a week between Moscow and Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh.
A Russian delegation inspected both airports and resort hotels at the end of last month to check on security and health procedures, according to Russia’s Tass news agency. The attack almost six years ago claimed by the jihadist Islamic State group dealt a blow to Egypt’s key tourist industry, and the sector has been further battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Egypt reopened to foreign tourists in July last year after having closed its borders in March to stem the flow of coronavirus infections. In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic struck, tourism made up about 12 percent of Egypt’s GDP. After a long period of political instability that dented earnings, revenues from the sector recovered to $13 billion that year. But in 2020, a year when Egypt had initially eyed a further rebound to $16 billion, takings collapsed to $4 billion. – AFP