Egypt joins UK’s red list
Last week the UK added Egypt, and six other countries, to its red list. Travellers from red list countries to the UK are required to quarantine for 11 days at a hotel approved by the government and have two negative PCR tests before being allowed to check out of the hotel.
Tarek Imam, head of the tour operator Travel Line, described the UK’s decision as “a catastrophe”. Travel Line arranges cruises between Luxor and Aswan and was expecting the arrival of a number of groups from the UK in October. The groups have requested their trips be delayed. Having made the initial down payment to secure their holidays two years ago, they still haven’t been able to make it to Egypt.
The UK is one of the largest tourist markets for Egypt. In June 2020, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El-Enany met with the UK Ambassador to Egypt Sir Geoffrey Adams to discuss ways to boost tourism between the two countries.
Direct flights from the UK to Sharm El-Sheikh resumed in February 2020, before the coronavirus outbreak, after the UK ended a ban imposed in 2015 after 224 people died when a Russian airliner was downed over Sinai. Immediately after the resumption there was a weekly direct flight from the UK’s Gatwick airport to Sharm El-Sheikh, which increased to two flights per week on 14 September.
While Sharm El-Sheikh for a time fell off British tourists’ maps, Hurghada remained a popular destination.
The UK’s decision will delay the return of British travellers to Egypt, said Ihab Abdel-Aal, head of Blue Moon travel agency. The industry had been anticipating the arrival of a million UK tourists to Egypt in 2021 following the resumption of flights.
In Egypt British tourists visit cultural destinations and beaches — in that order. They are ranked as upper middle-spenders.
Following the 25 January 2011 Revolution, the UK came second in the list of travellers to Egypt. In 2010, 1.5 million British tourists flew to the country, a figure that rose to 1.34 million the following year, before dropping to 1.012 million in 2012.
“Now, travellers flying to or returning to the UK need three negative PCR tests: one before boarding, one taken on the third day and the third on the eighth day,” says Abdel-Aal.
Reuters reported that no countries were added to the UK’s quarantine-free green list. “The full list of countries added to the ‘red list’ is: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Trinidad and Tobago.”
Before the coronavirus outbreak, Thomas Cook’s bankruptcy crisis in 2019 had adversely affected the number of British tourists to Egypt. It was reported at the time that Egypt lost an estimated 100,000 UK tourists in 2020. Blue Sky, the company that acts as Thomas Cook’s agent in Egypt, reported 25,000 cancellations of British reservations up to April 2020.
Rania Al-Mashat, the minister of tourism at the time, said: “Over the last few years we have put great effort into diversifying the markets exporting tourists. British travellers are no longer on top of Egypt’s list.
In 2018-19, Germany became the largest exporter of tourists to Egypt.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 June, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly