Russia lifted a ban on charter flights to Egypt’s main Red Sea resorts on Thursday, ending a five-year hiatus.
Flights were suspended in 2015 after a chartered Russian plane crashed over the Sinai Peninsula shortly after it took off from Sharm El Sheikh. All 224 people on board the St Petersburg-bound flight were killed. An ISIS-affiliated group claimed responsibility.
Regular Russian flights to Cairo were also suspended after the incident but resumed in 2018.
Thursday’s decision was reported by the TASS news agency, citing a decree by Russian President Vladimir Putin. It came three months after Russia declared its intention to resume chartered flights to Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada, Egypt’s main resort cities on the Red Sea.
Before the 2015 crash, Russian tourists accounted for about 40 per cent of all foreign visitors to Egypt, mostly arriving on chartered flights to Sharm El Shiekh and Hurghada.
The Red Sea resorts are popular with Russian tourists because of their year-round sunny weather, sandy beaches and pristine water. Both are also world-famous diving destinations.
The resumption of the chartered flights comes at a time when Egypt’s vital tourism is slowly recovering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The rates of infection in Red Sea regions has consistently been negligible since the epidemic broke out in February last year.
The government this week allowed hotels nationwide to operate at 70 per cent of their capacity, up from 50 per cent. Preventive measures remain in force.
Egypt welcomed 13 million tourists in 2019, the year before the pandemic struck, earning $13.03 billion. Last year, its revenues from the sector dropped to $4bn.
The tourist industry, which normally accounts for about 15 per cent of Egypt’s gross domestic product, earned the Treasury about $4bn during the first half of 2021.
Up to one million Russian tourists are forecast to visit Egypt this year.