Increased security measures put in place at Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh airport means it is now safer than Heathrow and the British government must be pressed to explain why flights can’t resume.
Yesterday’s inaugural International Travel Crisis Management Summit organised by Travel Weekly heard from leading global travel and tourism organisations about the situation in Egypt.
Dr Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the UN World Travel Organisation said David Cameron had been given assurances about safety at the airport before he left office.
He said the former Prime Minister was assured the airport, which has been closed to UK carriers since the downing of a Russian Metrojet aircraft over a year ago, was now safer than Heathrow.
But he said he was not prepared to take the political risk and allow flying to resume.
Dr Rifai said the British government risks making the political situation worse by failing to support tourism and jobs in Egypt and risking more people becoming radicalised.
“What’s happening in Egypt, and Turkey, is a breeding nest for terrorism because we fail to understand that there is a bigger picture. People are eager for tourists to come back. Wait another year, that’s too late. Half of those jobless people are going to be recruited by ISIS.”
David Scowsill, president and chief executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council, agreed: “We are comfortable with what the Egyptian government has put in place to protect British travellers.”
Scowsill said he was in Egypt last week to inspect the $32 billion upgrade of security at Egyptian airports by British experts and he said “it looks pretty good”.
He said only the British government remains not committed to resuming flights to Sharm. “We do not know if that’s a security issues or something else,” he said.
Scowsill said he has read the two travel advisories the UK government currently has to consumer and to the industry and he could not understand what they were saying.
And he agreed with Dr Rifai that young people in Egypt who are losing their jobs are at risk of radicalisation.
“Young people are in danger of being radicalised. They cannot go east, west or south. So what do they do? They get in a boat and come to Europe. And some are dying in the process.
“We need to put the pressure on the British government to change their view on this.”
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