The British government has lifted restrictions against Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh airport, the British Ambassador in Egypt, Geoffrey Adams announced in a roundtable discussion on Tuesday, organised by Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism
The British government has today informed airlines that it no longer advises against flying to Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh Airport. The lift has been imposed since 2015 following the Russian Metrojet aeroplane crash.
During the roundtable, Adams stated that he is very delighted with this decision stating that it came after an intensive and successful cooperation between the two sides.
He stated that he knows how important tourism is to Egypt, adding that the number of British tourists who came to Egypt last year were about half a million. He expects that the number of tourists will increase after the UK lifts its flight restriction on Sharm el Sheikh
According to a press Statement issued by the British Embassy, the ambassador stated that “this announcement follows our aviation security experts’ close cooperation with their Egyptian counterparts. We will work closely with airlines who wish to resume flights.”
“We will also continue our work with Egyptian officials to ensure the safety and security of British nationals, which remains our top priority.” Adams added.
The Egyptian government has spent millions on security upgrades, but repeated requests to the UK to reopen flights have been dismissed.
In response, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism, Rania Al-Mashat, stated in a press conference, that the Uk’s lifting restrictions against Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh airport is considered a message to the whole world about the depth of British-Egyptian relations and also assures the safety in Egypt.
“We welcome the return of British tourists to Sharm El-Sheikh. This announcement is a renewal of the ongoing cooperation between both nations.” she assured.
She added “this step is a testament to the continuous efforts exerted by the Egyptian government to ensure the safety and security of every visitor in all of Egypt’s destinations, and in South Sinai in particular.”
Commenting on the decision of the UK’s decision, Hesham El Damery, the retiring president of the Tourism Promotion Board Authority, told Daily News Egypt that he hopes that the number of British tourists will return to pre-travel ban numbers by the end of the first quarter of 2020.
While Former head of Egyptian Tourism Federation, Elhamy Al-Zayat, stated that the number of British tourists coming to Egypt is expected to reach 800,000, up from 500,000 currently. While, former head of parliament’s civil and tourism committee and member of the parliament, Sahar Talaat Mostafa welcomed the UK’s decision.
Moreover, UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a press statement that lifting the restriction was “the first step” in resuming direct flights.
He added, “The safety and security of British nationals remains our top priority and this decision follows close co-operation between our aviation security experts and their Egyptian counterparts, and improvements in security procedures at the airport.”
“The UK has been clear that flights to Sharm El-Sheikh should resume when the security situation allows for it. I am pleased that today we can announce the lifting of the current restrictions. We will continue to work closely with our partners in Egypt and airlines that plan to resume flights in the future,” British Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Dr Andrew Murrison said.
Egypt has significantly invested in safety and security measures including CCTV, airport security, GPS on tour busses, and continually reviews and enhances these security steps.
Al-Mashat assured that the lift of the travel ban on Sharm El Sheikh reestablishes confidence in one of the most popular, entertaining, and enjoyable tourism destinations globally, welcoming tourists from all over the world.
The Minister of Tourism highlighted that international institutions have acknowledged the improvements witnessed in Egypt’s security infrastructure.
According to the World Economic Forum’s latest 2019 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report (TTCR), Egypt had the fourth-highest Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) performance improvement and ranked the most improved in the MENA region for safety and security.
Moreover, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) attributed the growth in Egypt’s tourism sector to the hugely improved security infrastructure, and awarded Egypt the annual “2019 Global Champion Award” for promoting tourism resilience.
Furthermore, she mentioned that Egypt’s revenues from tourism increased by 28.2% during the last Fiscal Year (FY), recording $12.570bn, compared to only $9.804bn, according to the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) balance of payment.
El Damery, told Daily News Egypt that before imposing the ban there were a million British Tourists in Egypt annually. After imposing the ban, the number dropped to about half a million.
Al-Zayat explained that due to the collapse of British tourism company Thomas Cook, the market will witness a shake until another great company like Thomas Cook absorbs the number of travelers, so the real or great impact of removing the travel ban will take some time.
On the other hand, he stated that removing the flight ban on Sharm El Sheikh will make British tourists more confident in the safety of not only Sharm EL Sheikh but the whole country.
Agreeing with Al-Zayat, former head of parliament’s civil and tourism committee and member of the parliament, Sahar Talaat Mostafa stated that today’s announcement is a practical recognition to the world of the safety and stability in Egypt.
She also welcomed the quotes of Andrew Murrison calling on the tourism sector to stand ready to cooperate with British partners to restore British tourism to Sharm El Sheikh during the coming winter season.
She also assured the need to launch marketing campaigns directed to British tourists to return to Sharm El sheikh via social platforms, and also invited the British journalists and influencers to visit Sharm El Sheikh.
The tourism sector in Egypt suffered a devastating blow, especially when a Russian passenger plane crashed in Sinai in late October 2015, leaving no survivors.
Notably, following the plane crash, Russia imposed a travel ban on Egypt, while the UK suspended all flights to Sharm El-Sheikh amid concerns over the airport’s security practices, banning travel to Sinai.
Will the Russians follow?
In January 2018, the Russian government gave permission for flights to resume to Egypt after a two-year hiatus, allowing Russian flights to return to Cairo in April. On the other hand, the UK is still imposing bans on travel to Sinai, and hence tourism to Sharm El-Sheikh were very limited.
Thus, the return of British flights to Sharm El Sheikh has raised the hope of the return of Russian flights to the Sinai again.
The Chairperson of the Egyptian Russian Business Council called on Russia to resume their flights to Sharm El Sheikh especially after the UK’s decision, assuring that Russian and Egyptian companies want to resume their charter flights.
In that context, both El Damery and Al-Zayat expected the Russian government to reconsider the issue of removing the ban.
El Damery also stated that there is a good chance that the Russian government may reconsider the ban seeing that Egypt’s president is to meet his Russian counterpart within the next few days, explaining that whenever the president visits, there is always a great impact in the development of tourism
He also explained that there is additional opportunity from this ban to attract new nationalities to come and visit Egypt.
El Damery explained that since 2015, Egypt began to attract non-traditional markets, including people from Ukraine and Poland.
He also stated that Egypt has somehow maintained a constant flow of British tourists to Marsa Allam and Hurghada