Thousands of Ukrainian tourists have been stranded in Egyptian resorts as a result of the war in Ukraine because they cannot return home due to the closure of their country’s airspace, the report said this week. chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Development Authority, putting the number of people affected at around 22,000.
Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has asked hotels where stranded tourists are staying to offer their customers continued services at the same rates they originally booked.
But stranded Ukrainian tourists are only one side of the story, as Egypt’s tourism sector appears to be facing another Russia-related crisis.
Many Egyptian hotels and travel agencies owe money to Russian and Ukrainian travel agencies and are struggling to collect their dues. The number of Russian and Ukrainian tourists visiting Egypt, once at the top of the list of foreign visitors to the country, is also expected to decline indefinitely.
Tarek Shalabi, head of the Investors Association in Marsa Alam, said there are currently 1,800 to 1,900 Ukrainian tourists in Marsa Alam, but many Russian and Ukrainian travel agencies have failed to pay for hotels. Egyptians and probably won’t in the near future.
Foreign travel agencies usually make final payments to hotels some time after tourists return to their country. Deposits vary according to the contract and the size of the business conducted between the hotel and the agency.
Some hotels have decided to help stranded tourists. In response to the government’s request to accommodate Ukrainian tourists whose stay has ended, the Hyatt Sharm Hotel has prepared 10 fully furnished chalets to accommodate stranded families.
The Cleopatra Hotels group in Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada has announced that it is extending the stay of its Ukrainian customers until the completion of procedures between the Ukrainian Embassy in Cairo and the Egyptian authorities to ensure the safety of tourists. .
He said in a statement that he appreciated the fact that Ukrainian tourists chose Egypt as their destination during the period when Russian flights to Egypt were banned.
It’s not just hotels in tourist destinations that owe money. The same applies to the Egyptian authorities through the services offered to Ukrainian airlines, in particular landing fees.
Tamer Al-Shaer, a member of the Chamber of Tourism Establishments and director of the Blue Sky Tour agency which does business with Russia and Ukraine, said a solution had to be found because otherwise Egyptian hotels would have difficulties in recovering the sums owed by Russia. and Ukrainian travel agencies, in particular with the shutdown of the SWIFT system to Russian banks.
Many Ukrainian tourists have canceled their trips, as have half of Russian tourists who are expected to arrive soon. More Russians could cancel their trips if the situation worsens, Al-Shaer said.
He said the war in Ukraine would likely negatively affect other markets exporting tourists to Egypt, including Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia and Macedonia.
The Russian and Ukrainian markets are among the biggest markets for tourism to Egypt. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Ukraine has been in first place, while Russian tourism is still disrupted. Russian tourists began returning to Egyptian resorts last October.
In 2019, Ukraine had the second highest number of tourists visiting Egypt with 1.6 million, a 32% increase from the previous year.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Cairo said more than 727,000 Ukrainian tourists visited Egypt in 2020, representing 21% of the total number of foreign tourists visiting Egypt that year.
According to the Ukrainian Tourism Agency, 1.46 million Ukrainians visited Egypt last year.
Ahmed Hamdi, director of New Star Aviation, agent for six Russian airlines, including state-owned Air Russia, Royal, Yamal and Siberia S7, said only six flights from Russia landed in Hurghada last Sunday (two flights) and Sharm El-Sheikh (four) out of a total of 25 who usually land daily through the company.
There are six Ukrainian planes in Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada flying under the flags of Ukrainian Airlines and SkyUp, the latter being the second airline after the state-owned company. These planes were unable to leave Egypt after the outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine, but their host crews are accommodated in hotels.
Hamdi said the sanctions against Russia will affect the influx of Russian tourists coming to Egypt. EU countries have also closed their airspace to Russian airlines in response to the war in Ukraine.
Russian flights arrive in Egypt through Turkish airspace, Hamdi said, and if Turkey also closes its airspace to Russian airlines, no Russian tourists will be able to come to Egypt.
Hisham Al-Damiri, manager of the Mövenpick Sharm El-Sheikh hotel, said there would be arrangements to facilitate the arrival of tourists via neighboring countries, but it could take some time as few flights take off. from Egypt to Ukraine’s neighboring countries.
He said that even after the war ended, tourism from Ukraine would likely stop due to economic conditions affecting the country, but tourism from Russia would not be greatly affected.
Al-Damiri, former head of Egypt’s Tourism Development Authority, noted that since Russian tourism resumed after a six-year hiatus, Egypt had been able to recover around 45-50% of its previous number of Russian tourists. .
A version of this article appeared in the March 3, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.