Egypt is confident Sharm el Sheikh will return to its former glory within the British market, after a flurry of tour operators confirmed they were already plotting their return to the Red Sea resort following the lifting of the UK government’s flight ban.
Holidaymakers will begin to return to Sharm from the UK in a matter of weeks; the first Red Sea Holidays charter flights will get underway in November, while Tui’s programme will resume next February.
Speaking to TTG at WTM, tourism minister Rania Al-Mashat said the dropping of the UK’s flight ban – advising against all but essential travel since November 2015 – had been the culmination of “detailed coordination” over several years between the two countries.
On improvements made in Sharm, Al-Mashat said her government “had not been stingy” when it came to investing in security technology and training at its airport.
Amr el Ezabi, director UK and Ireland of the Egyptian State Tourist Office, added he believed Brits would enjoy a marked improvement in holiday experience when they return.
“Sharm is ready. It has diversified and attracted new markets – eastern Europe and the Gulf states in particular,” he said.
“Time hasn’t stood still. There are lots of new things in Sharm, the new hotels are of a higher standard. There’s been a lot of movement. Yes, investment plans went slower, but they were still going.”
“Sharm has attracted high-quality investment; once you arrive at that level, the new hotels can’t go in below that standard, so Sharm is just going higher and higher.”
Discussing future UK expansion into Sharm, el Ezabi said easyJet’s soon-to-launch tour operation, easyJet Holidays, was “very serious” about moving in.
Al-Mashat said Egypt’s tourism industry was “very fortunate” Thomas Cook collapsed a month before the ban was lifted and its hoteliers did not begin to restart partnerships with the now defunct operator.
She said Cook’s demise had had “little impact” on Egypt, praising the British government for “making sure our hoteliers [working with Cook] were paid” and for its “great cooperation to bring guests home”.
Away from Sharm, Al-Mashat reported Egypt had achieved its highest level of tourism revenue ever this year of $12.6 billion.