The Egyptian ambassador to the UK has said it is down to the British government to sanction flights to Sharm el-Sheikh and warned that the country is “lagging behind” other countries in terms of tourism.
In a sharp response to questions at World Travel Market, Nasser Kamel said that Egypt has spent between $30million and $50million on upgrading the airport and said other countries – such as Germany and Japan – have resumed flights since the 2015 terrorist bombing of a Russian charter flight after take-off from Sharm el-Sheik airport.
Hisham El Demery, chairman of the Egypt Tourism Promotion Board, said Britain was one of the countries “oldest markets”.
Kamel told a WTM press conference: “This is a question to be asked of the UK government. As far as the Egyptian government is concerned, we have implemented a joint action project and upgraded security at Sharm el-Sheikh [airport].
“The project has been so successful that the whole world, except Britain, has resumed flights. So I think you should ask the relevant authorities in the UK.”
Kamel said the training of airport staff had been done in co-operation with British authorities – and passed all assessments to date. “Sharm el-Sheikh is one of the safest airports. I would dare say safer than some here in the UK.”
UK visitor numbers have recovered this year, despite the lack of flights to-Sharm el Sheikh, which is the most popular resort among British tourists.
Kamel revealed that 230,000 Brits have travelled to Egypt so far this year, up from 170,000 in the whole of 2016. But that compares to the more than 750,000 who made the journey in 2014 and the more than one million Brits per year travelling to Egypt at its tourism peak in 2009-2010.
So far this year, more than 800,000 Germans have travelled to Egypt, 85% up on 2016. That number is expected to surpass one million by the end of the year.
Before being asked about the UK, El Demery said Egypt had seen a big increase in tourism from “developing markets” such as Poland, Ukraine and Czechia (the Czech Republic).
When asked about UK flights to-Sharm resuming, Kamel later added: “These nations, which take security extremely seriously and would not risk their countrymen’s safety, are happy to fly to Sharm el-Sheikh. That’s why I’m asking that you talk to the British authorities [about why flights have not been resumed from the UK].
“Sharm el-Sheikh is the number one destination for British tourists, who have grown fond of the city. It has become a brand and is very popular among a wide range of segments of the British market.
“As long as Sharm el-Sheikh is not operating [flights to the UK], we don’t expect the British numbers to be as strong as other nations. The UK is definitely lagging behind.”
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