Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh devoid of tourists following the Russian plane crash - Reuters
CAIRO, Apr 4 (Aswat Masriya) – The number of tourists visiting Egypt has declined by 45.9 per cent in February compared to the same time last year due to the Russian plane crash, the state-run Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) said Monday.
Egypt's tourism industry, a vital source of foreign currency, has been hit hard since a Russian plane crashed in the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015, killing all 224 people on board. The plane was heading from the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg in Russia.
Egypt had already been struggling to recover from economic problems and a shortage of foreign currency reserves since the 2011 Uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.
Moscow suspended all flights to Egypt pending an investigation into the crash. The UK followed suit, halting all flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh.
The number of tourists dropped from 640,200 in Feb. 2015 to 346,500 last February, primarily due to the lower number of Russian tourists, CAPMAS said in its statement released Monday.
The official statistical agency added that compared to Feb. 2015, the number of nights spent by tourists in February went down by 67.2 per cent, triggered by a 99 per cent slump in nights spent by Russian tourists.
Tourists' average stay reached 5.5 nights in Feb. compared to 9.2 nights in Feb. of last year, CAPMAS added.
In Feb, Germany ranked on top of western European countries sending tourists to Egypt, with 35.6 per cent, while Saudi Arabia came first among Middle Eastern countries with 25.8 per cent, and Ukraine was the highest among eastern European countries with 60.3 per cent.
In their most recent meeting in mid-March, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and Egypt's foreign minister Sameh Shukri agreed to make efforts to resume direct flights between Egypt and Russia in the shortest possible period of time, Reuters reported.
The Russian plan crash has dealt a major blow to Egypt's tourism industry, which is considered a cornerstone of the economy.
Egypt’s most active militant group in North Sinai, the ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province, claimed responsibility for downing the plane twice.
However, the investigative committee says has yet to find evidence that the flight was brought down by a bomb smuggled on board, as the ISIS-affiliate claimed.
Meanwhile, Egypt's president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a speech in February that the plane was downed by terrorists seeking to damage its tourism industry and ties with Moscow.