Russian tourists prepare to depart for St.Petersburg, Russia from Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, south Sinai, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015.AP
Russian tourists are being transported home from Egypt after the deadly plane crash above the Sinai Peninsula on October. 31. Flights to Egypt have been suspended and fears are growing that the suspension of all flights from Russia to Egypt could have disastrous consequences for the Russian tourist industry.
Russia suspended all flights to Egypt on November 6, amid rising international concern that the Kogalymavia flight from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh to St. Petersburg, which mysteriously crashed just 23 minutes into the flight killing all 224 passengers and crew on board, was brought down by a bomb placed in the hold. An official cause for the disaster has, however, still not been established.
The 80,000-odd Russians who are still in Egypt are being brought home in batches, separately from their luggage, which is being transported by Russian Emergencies Ministry aircraft.
Rosturism (the Russian Federal Tourism Agency) figures suggest that Egypt is the most popular foreign destination for Russian tourists. In 2014, around 30 percent of all outbound visitors, or about 3 million people, visited Egypt, said Dmitry Gorin, vice-president of the Russian association of tour operators (ATOR).
Tour operators say they are already losing money on the flights that are now going empty to Egypt, to bring Russian tourists back home.
According to Anna Podgornaya from Pegas Turistik and Vladimir Vorobyev, president of Natali Tours, this means that they are losing half of the airfare on each empty seat. In other words, at an average price of a return ticket of $250, tour operators stand to lose a total of nearly $10 million.
The situation is being further exacerbated by the losses from the cancelled flights. According to ATOR calculations, some 70,000 holidays in Egypt had already been sold for the period before New Year. At an average price of $800 per person, this will translate into losses of at least $56 million. Other potential losses include advance payments already made to Egyptian hotels. After last year’s wave of bankruptcies in the Russian tourist sector, advance payments were introduced by practically all hotels, said Podgornaya. Now tour operators will have to reach new deals with their local partners, promising the same level of tourist traffic once flights are resumed.
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