Egypt’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El-Enany said the resumption of flights from Russia to the Egyptian Red Sea’s resort cities is a “very positive” step, affirming that coordination is underway to increase the number of direct flights between the two sides.
The Red Sea resort cities of Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh received three direct flights from Russia on Monday carrying over 1300 tourists after a six-year hiatus. A flight operated by EgyptAir is also set to reach Sharm El-Sheikh on Tuesday.
In remarks made to Sada El-Balad TV channel, El-Enany said a Russian delegation accompanied the Russian visitors to Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada, considering it a “free of charge promotion” for Egyptian tourism.
Egypt is coordinating with the Russian authorities to increase the number of weekly flights — currently 12.
The minister said that Egypt has been ready to receive tourists from all countries for years, but the Egyptian state respects each country’s decisions.
More than three million Russian tourists came to Egypt in 2014, El-Enany said, affirming that Russia had been the number one contributor to Egyptian tourism between 2010 and 2015.
The number of tourists coming to Egypt is expected to increase thanks to the preventive measures and the expertise of workers at tourism resorts, hospitals, and clinics, El-Enany added.
“God willing, with our preventive measures; the experience of our colleagues working at the resorts of touristic governorates; and the magnificent security measures in the airports, clinics, and hospitals, the number [of tourists] will increase.”
The minister said the ministry will take legal action against any hotel or touristic institution that does not adhere to the coronavirus preventive measures, as it affects the livelihoods of more than one million people working in the tourism sector.
He also said that all international reports on Egyptian tourism were positive, and the number of tourists is on the rise.
A Russian health-tourism delegation visited Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada 15 days ago and visited hotels’ clinics, hospitals, airports, and PCR facilities, El-Enany added.
Egyptian resorts are the best worldwide in terms of keeping tourists COVID-free, the minister added.
The minister said that Egypt will be launching direct flights from Sharm El-Sheikh to Luxor and from Hurghada to Aswan before the winter to enable tourists to also enjoy cultural tourism.
Ending the hiatus
Hurghada received on Monday two flights from Moscow carrying over 800 Russian visitors. The first plane was operated by EgyptAir and the second was operated by Rossiya, a subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned flagship carrier Aeroflot.
Sharm El-Sheikh also received a flight operated by Rossiya on Monday carrying over 500 passengers.
The planes were received with the traditional water salute and passengers were greeted with chocolate, roses, souvenirs, and oriental and western music performances.
In October 2015, Russia suspended direct flights to Egyptian airports following the crash of a Russian flight in Sinai that killed all 224 people on board.
Egypt has since upgraded its safety and security measures at all airports nationwide.
The country has also received several Russian security delegations to inspect the safety measures being implemented within Egypt’s airports.
In April 2018, Russia resumed flights to Cairo International Airport, ending a 30-month suspension, but the Russian ban on flights to Egypt's Red Sea destinations was only lifted last July, as per Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree.
The Russian president's decision came on the heels of a phone call between Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Putin in April, during which they agreed on the resumption of direct flights between Russia and Red Sea airports.
The chair of the Egyptian parliament's tourism committee, Nora Ali, has said that the resumption of direct Russian flights to the Red Sea represents a big boost for Egypt's economy and the tourism industry.
Other developments in Egyptian tourism
Minister El-Enany also spoke about the massive Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) that is under construction in Giza, saying the date of its inauguration will be determined based on the circumstances of the pandemic and whether the museum can receive visitors while mitigating the spread of the virus.
He added that the engineering work in the museum is on the cusp of completion and its inauguration ceremony will be as grand as the Golden Pharaohs’ Parade that was held earlier this year.
The GEM complex is located on an area that is approximately 500,000 square metres adjacent to the Pyramids of Giza. It is one of the largest museums in the world displaying the heritage of a single civilisation.
Egypt on Friday evening transported the first Khufu solar boat from its current display in a special museum located at the southern side of the Great Pyramid of Khufu on the Giza Plateau to its new permanent exhibition at the GEM.