Tourism impacts from Ukraine

Safeya Mounir , Thursday 24 Feb 2022

Safeya Mounir sounds out tourism experts on whether Egypt’s tourist industry will be affected by the crisis between Russia and Ukraine

Tourism impacts from Ukraine
Tourism impacts from Ukraine

As tensions mount between Russia and Ukraine, so too do concerns over a possible war and its impact on many aspects of the global economy, not least tourism. Already the skirmishes in Ukraine are having an impact on Egypt’s tourism industry.

According to Ali Okda, CEO of Meeting Point Egypt, a tourism company focusing on the Russian market, tourism from both Russia and Ukraine is down to a quarter of what it was before the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

“If a war breaks out, there will be no tourism at all,” he commented, adding that tourist planes will not take off from Ukraine, its airspace will be closed to civil aviation, and insurance companies will not insure planes coming from either Ukraine or Russia.

He said that the fallout of a war on tourism to Egypt would be largely limited to these two countries, however, with Omicron remaining the leading cause of low tourist rates from Europe.

However, the latter were likely to rise again soon. “Hotel reservations in Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada in March are up 30 per cent from February. Europe has begun to open up, and some EU countries have begun to allow in unvaccinated persons.”

Even so, Ukraine is a main exporter of tourists to Egypt. According to the Ukraine State Agency for Tourism Development, Ukrainian citizens took 14.7 million tourist trips abroad in 2021. The top two destinations were Turkey, which received 28 per cent of Ukrainian tourists, and Egypt which received 21 per cent.

Mustafa Khalil, a member of the Egyptian-Russian Business Council, said that the tourist markets from both Russia and Ukraine had been affected by the tensions. However, he feared a worse situation could arise if economic sanctions are imposed on Russia after the Ukraine crisis passes, with these likely to sharply reduce Russian tourism.

Egypt’s tourist numbers are down 40 per cent from October and November levels, he said, though this was largely due to the new variant of Covid-19. “Most Europeans are not convinced that war is imminent,” Khalil said, pointing to the tourist bookings Europeans have made for March.

He added that while tourism from Russia was still less than it was before Russia suspended flights to Egypt following the downing of the Russian passenger plane over Sinai in 2015, the quality of it was better.

The economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have reduced the numbers of Russian tourists able to come to Egypt, meaning that only those able to spend more were coming.

Director of the Savoy Hotels chain Rami Rizqallah said that the skirmishes in Ukraine had had a significant effect. More than 20,000 Russian tourists per week had earlier come to Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada, but the rate has now dropped to 10,000, he said.

More than 700,000 Russians visited Egypt last year, Russian Ambassador to Egypt Georgy Borisenko told the Sputnik news agency earlier in February.

The same destinations have lately been receiving 6,000 to 8,000 tourists per week from Ukraine. Before the skirmishes, there had been 40,000.

Rizqallah added that Ukraine had been a prime tourist market for Egypt before the Russians returned last summer when direct and charter flights from Russia to the Red Sea resorts resumed after a six-year hiatus.

Russia and Ukraine are among the top sources of tourists to Egypt, and they were among the few markets that started to boom again once the Covid-19 pandemic had begun to subside.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 February, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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