By Ahmed Abbas
Russian experts expect it would take at least two weeks to audit Egyptian airports before Russian flights to Egypt resume, said deputy head of Russia’s Association of Tourist Operators Dmitry Gorin to local Russian media Monday.
“At least two weeks are necessary to reconfirm security at the airports. This is not for sure, this is what we are hoping for,” said Gorin. He also added that all Russian tourists will have returned home by 20 November.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to suspend passenger flights from Russia to Egypt.
“Russian air companies are temporarily banned from making flights [including commercial] from Russia to Egypt, with the exception of flights, including commercial, to transport Russian citizens commissioned by the state authorities and federal agencies to Egypt for work-related purposes,” the decree said.
Moreover, the decree also strongly advises travel companies against selling tourist packages. “Travel operators and agents are recommended to refrain from selling travel packages including transportation by air for the period of the temporary flight ban,” added the decree.
It also obliges the government to take effective measures to ensure the return of Russian citizens staying in Egypt and their luggage back to Russia. According to the presidential decree, Putin urged the Russian ministry of foreign affairs to cooperate with the Egyptian authorities on the security of Russians staying in Egypt.
On 6 November, the Russian president agreed on security recommendations to suspend air service with Egypt until the causes of the A321 plane crash are identified.
Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agency TASS that the suspension of flights did not mean that a terrorist attack is considered a key theory of the Russian plane crash in Sinai.
Meanwhile, around 15,000 Russian tourists have been evacuated from Egypt over Saturday and Sunday, said Dmitry Gorin.
“As of November 6, we had 79,000 tourists at Egyptian resorts. Over the weekend, around 15,000 people have been evacuated. I think the number will increase today as night flights from yesterday will be added,” Gorin told the Russian news agency. He said Russian tourists are returning home without luggage, which will be delivered later.
According to Russian Tourism Agency, Rostourism, about 80,000 Russians were staying in Egypt as of Friday. Russian tourists accounts for up to one third of all tourists who visit Egypt every year.
The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church called on Egyptians inside and outside Egypt to organise tourism trips in Egypt.
The church said in a statement: “The entire world knows the value of Egypt, where all the ancient civilisations have converged and continued on its territory.” It also urged Egyptians who have plans for holidays abroad to encourage local tourism.
Fears were stoked among tourism workers after the Russian plane crash, and the announced flight suspensions of several international airlines.
Egyptian and Arab activists launched hashtags on social media to support the already suffering tourism sector by inviting people to visit the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh.