Egypt markets cultural sites, as Russia and Ukraine beach travelers stay away

A camel guide waits for customers next to the pyramid of Khafre, or Chefren, at the Giza pyramids plateau in Giza, Egypt, Dec. 18, 2020. (Reuters)
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  • Occupancy rates in Sharm El-Sheikh below 35% after suspension of Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian flights
  • Over 3m Russians contributed about $3.5bn, or 33% annually to tourist revenues in Egypt

CAIRO: Egyptian tourism companies are robustly marketing the country’s newly upgraded archeological and cultural sites with tour operators in Western European and East Asian countries, to offset the loss of tourists from Russia and Ukraine who regularly visit their beach resorts.

Sources at the Egyptian Federation of Tourist Chambers said officials are betting on high-spending travelers to make up for the reduced numbers recorded on the Red Sea coast in Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh.

One source said: “The decline has become very clear recently, especially in Sharm El-Sheikh, due to the suspension of Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian flights; and occupancy rates are less than 35 percent, after they exceeded 60 percent last January … (with) occupancy ranging between 40 and 45 percent in Hurghada.”

Cultural tourism makes up less than 5 percent of Egypt’s total income from this sector, in contrast to beach tourism, which makes up about 90 percent.

Russian and Ukrainian tourists represented about 70 percent of the total tourists hosted by the city of Sharm El-Sheikh over the past five months.

According to the Ukrainian State Tourism Agency, the number of tourist trips undertaken by the country’s citizens abroad in 2021 amounted to about 14.7 million. Turkey hosts the most Ukrainians at 28 percent, with Egypt in second place with 21 percent, or about 3 million tourists.

Over 3 million Russian travelers contributed about $3.5 billion annually to tourist revenues in Egypt, representing 33 percent of Egypt’s total tourism income. This was recorded before the crash of the Russian Metrojet plane over Sinai at the end of October 2015 that subsequently resulted in a decline in numbers, according to data from the Ministry of Tourism.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed in May 2021 to restore Russian flights to Egypt.

Elhamy El-Zayat, former head of the Egyptian Federation of Tourist Chambers, was reported in local media as saying that Western European countries made up over half of all incoming tourists annually.

Al-Zayat said that he hoped Egypt’s upgrading and expansion of its antiquities and cultural attractions would help attract more affluent travelers, to mitigate the negative effects of the current situation.