Egyptian tourism looks to Britain to fill gap left by Russians and Ukrainians

Egypt's deputy tourism minister met top officials from Britain's tourism sector on Thursday to discuss future plans

Russian tourists swim at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh. AFP

Egypt's tourism ministry is in talks with representatives of the UK tourism sector to attract more Britons to Egypt amid a drop in visitors from Russia and Ukraine, two of Egyptian tourism’s most important demographics.

At an online meeting attended by Egypt’s ambassador to the UK along with some of the countries' top tourism officials, Ghada Shalaby, deputy tourism minister, gave a presentation on the various tourist destinations that Egypt has to offer.

In addition to highlighting Egypt’s progress over the past few years, she stressed the country’s readiness to receive more British tourists.

She added that Egypt has enacted the highest health and safety standards in its tourism sector, promising that tourists concerned over Covid-19 can rest easy.

She also outlined the ease with which British tourists can acquire a visa to enter Egypt, particularly after the digitisation of many of the government’s services in 2019.

Ms Shalaby said during the presentation that Egypt’s hosting of the coming UN Climate Change Conference (Cop27), which is set to take place in the Red Sea city of Sharm El Sheikh in November, is proof that it is prepared to handle more tourists.

Tourism is one of Egypt’s most vital industries, accounting for about 12 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, concerns in Egypt began to rise over what would happen to the tourism sector.

About 1.46 million Ukrainian tourists visited Egypt in 2021, a report from the Ukrainian State Agency for Tourism showed, but since the start of the war, tourism bookings from both Russia and Ukraine have dropped by about 30 per cent.

Egypt’s Red Sea had long been a favourite holiday destination among Russian tourists until a 2015 suspected terror attack downed a plane over the Sinai peninsula, killing all 224 people on board.

After the incident, the Russian government halted all direct flights to Egypt for six years.

But flights to the Red Sea region resumed in July of last year following long negotiations between both sides regarding security in the area.

The return of Russian tourists was welcomed by many Red Sea tourism workers, some of whom told The National in July that the sector had suffered greatly due to their long absence.

They hoped that the Russians’ return would help them recover from a two-year dry spell brought on by Covid-19.

Before the pandemic, Egypt’s tourism ministry had begun changing its promotional strategies to include more active social media campaigns and the use of influencers to draw attention to the many destinations it has to offer.

Following Russia’s ban on flights to the Red Sea, the ministry worked with Russian influencers to increase demand.

This month, it began to focus on the UK audience through a collaboration with British influencers, a group of whom were recently given a tour of Egypt by the country’s tourism promotion authority in hopes that followers would be inspired to visit Egypt.

Tourism experts have said that Egypt will also seek to attract more Germans to make up for the absence of Russians and Ukrainians. Germans were Egypt’s top visitors in 2021, a tourism ministry statement reported.

Updated: March 10, 2022, 6:07 PM