SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, (The Southern African Times) – “I’m extremely happy to return to my most favorite city,” Inessa Vadim, a Russian female tourist in her 40s said while receiving flowers and dancing to Egyptian pop music in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport.
Russia resumed on Monday direct flights to Egyptian Red Sea resorts of Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh, ending a ban that had lasted almost six years following the explosion of a Russian airliner that killed all 224 people on board in 2015.
When Russia decided to recommence direct flights to Egypt’s Red Sea resort cities, Vadim rushed to book a ticket and a hotel room.
“I can’t wait to dive in the warm crystal-clear seawater and play with dolphins,” she said, adding that she also plans to visit the newly opened museums in Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada.
On Monday, Egyptian resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada received 1,317 Russian tourists in three flights, according to a statement of Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry.
Egypt’s national flag carrier EgyptAir organizes seven flights weekly from Moscow to the two Egyptian cities, beside the daily flights between Cairo and Moscow, the statement added.
Russia topped the tourist market for Egypt in 2014 as the number of Russian tourists to Egypt surpassed 3.1 million, nearly 33 percent of the total inbound tourists that year, according to official statistics.
Egyptian Minister of Antiquities and Tourism, Khaled al-Anany told Sada al-Balad TV on Tuesday that “the return of Russian tourism has crowned intensive efforts in the past years,” expecting the two cities will welcome 12 flights per week very soon.
He added that the recently opened Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh museums will create additional competitiveness for the tourist resorts.
He stressed Egypt’s readiness to receive any tourists amid strict COVID-19 precautionary measures.
Russian female tourist Maniya Bola said she was “concerned to visit Egypt amid the spread of COVID-19.”
“But my travel agency assured me that all the tourism staff have been vaccinated and I can see the precautionary measures in the airport and the hotel and everywhere since my flight landed,” she said.
Diving, safari, taking bullet speed boats to the spots of dolphins, parachuting, and belly dancing shows are her planned activities, she added.
“Seeing flows of Russian tourists again in the Red Sea resorts is a wonderfully positive step toward bringing life back to Sharm al-Sheikh and Hurghada,” said Bashar Abu Taleb, Chairman of Tour Guides Syndicate of Red Sea.
He said that September and October are high-season months for Russian tourism in Egypt.
Also, Mahmoud Abdel Mageed, a 44-year-old bazaar owner in Sharm el-Sheikh, agreed that “the Russian tourists will revive the tourism sector after years of stagnation.”
“I’m so glad about the Russian decision, though the number of tourists is still not big, I believe that the Egyptian authorities’ moves against the spread of COVID-19 will contribute to improving the reputation of the country at the international level,” he said.
The Russian tourists usually coming in large groups and families which will encourage tourists from other countries to come, Mageed said.
“Finally, I opened my shop after five years of closure and restored the profession I love,” he said, noting that he quitted his temporary work as an Uber driver in Cairo when he knew about the resumption of Russian tourism.