Tourism workers expressed their concerns about the negative impacts of the Russian plane crash on Christmas bookings. There are about seven to 10 booking cancellations from the European market per day, which can amount to 60% to 70% by the end of the month.
They attributed this to the Kremlin’s decision to ban Russian tourist trips to Egypt until the reason of the plane crash is disclosed.
Vice Chairman of the tourist hotels division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce Nagy Erian said the situation is now in the hands of countries’ security forces. British and Russian markets are among the most important tourism exporting markets in the winter season.
Erian however believes Egypt can still recover flights coming from Europe following the conclusion of the investigation, no matter what the results are.
Russian tourism accounts for about 35% of total inbound traffic to Egypt annually, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
Russian tourism accounted for the largest share of tourists visiting Egypt over the past year, with 3.1 million Russians, economic advisor to the Minister of Tourism Adla Ragab said. The market also sent about 2 million tourists abroad over the past nine months.
Ragab believes European tourism cannot dispense with Egypt since it is one of the most important destinations due to the low cost of touristic services in Egypt compared to other competing countries in the region.
Chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Authority Samy Mahmoud said they plan to deal with the crisis by targeting European countries that have not issued travel warnings to Egypt since it is still a popular destination despite the ongoing events.
They will focus on Italy, as well as Eastern and Central European countries, and the Arab market. “We have a strong inbound tourism from the Gulf, especially the UAE, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, as well as a growing inbound from Jordan,” he said.
The Ministry of Tourism is about to finalise and launch a domestic tourism campaign for Egyptian until the beginning of 2015.
Erian said the Egyptian domestic market can occupy 20% to 25% of hotel capacities during the Christmas period.
“The rates of cancellations of Christmas bookings cannot be predicted,” Head of the Tourism Investors Association in South Sinai Hesham Ali said. Thomas Cook’s decision to suspend flights to Sharm El-Sheikh is ending on Thursday. He believes that cancellations will not exceed 20%.
The current occupancy rate in Sharm El-Sheikh is over 50%, against 70% before the Russian plane crash, according to Ali.
However, Erian disagrees, believing that occupancies in Sharm El-Sheikh have been declining, reaching about 35% in Sharm El-Sheikh and 40% in Hurghada on Wednesday.
Hotel capacity in South Sinai and the Red Sea region accounts for 70% of the total capacity in Egypt.
An official at the Ministry of Tourism, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the British government has been asking for reimbursement for customers who booked flights to Sharm El-Sheikh that were later cancelled by Thomas Cook’s decision.
The official said when the British government rushed to conclusions for the cause of the plane crash, it caused many negative effects on Egyptian inbound tourism.
The total tourism income for Egypt over the past nine months of 2015 amounted to $5bn.
The Ministry of Tourism plans to support a campaign for coastal tourism in the Red Sea and South Sinai, according to the official, who also anticipated prices to fall by over 25%.
The ministry will focus on Central and South Asia to increase occupancy rates in Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh.