British tourists are flooding back to Egypt after the country elevated Hurghada to its premier destination for UK visitors following the UK ban on flights to Sharm el Sheikh.
In March, the Egyptian State Tourist Authority (ESTA) said it would focus on Hurghada and other Red Sea resorts while the ban continues.
However, Amr El Ezabi, ESTA director UK and Ireland, told TTG lobbying the UK government to lift the ban remained a priority.
El Ezabi said Egypt was experiencing a “very good comeback” in terms of British tourists: “In 2017, it was 38% up [year-on-year],” he revealed.
“We’re up more than 50% between January and May this year. We’re promoting new destinations like Hurghada, Marsa Alam and Luxor.
“But there is still the Sharm ban. All European countries are back [excluding Russia], but the British government still forbids flights there. We want to solve this with the UK.”
Sharm flights were suspended after Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 was brought down by a bomb on October 31, 2015, killing all 224 people onboard.
UK tourists are not banned from travelling to Sharm, but must do so by transit through another airport.
El Ezabi said ESTA had been delighted with the “excellent response” to Hurghada after UK flight capacity increased by 38% for summer 2018.
“Our expectations have been met,” he said. “Hurghada will be a premier destination, not just a substitute for Sharm. We should be back to 2010 levels by October 2019.”
Earlier this year, El Ezabi told TTG 2018 would be a "pivotal year" for the country.
Five UK airports offer direct flights to Egypt but this, El Ezabi claimed, will increase to nine for 2018-19.
However, the ESTA chief said there was work to do on Luxor in the UK.
“It hasn’t come back quite yet,” said El Ezabi. “There are more US tourists going there than UK tourists. We need a more global approach to Luxor.”