Accessibility links

Breaking News

Egypt: Undaunted Tourists From Russia, Belarus, And Ukraine Remain In Sharm El-Sheikh

A Sharm el-Sheikh resort after the bombing The Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh has long been a favorite destination for tourists from the former Soviet Union, who can travel there without a visa. But will Egypt remain an attractive option after the 23 July deadly bombings, which left more than 60 people dead? So far, tourists from countries like Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine do not appear to be deterred.

Prague, 26 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Thousands of Western tourists flew home prematurely from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh after the terrorist attacks -- but not Russians, Ukrainians, or Belarusians.

Irina Tyurina of the Russian Association of Tourism Agencies told RFE/RL that not a single charter flight into Sharm el-Sheikh was postponed because of the attacks, and no Russian tourists came home early.

"On Saturday [23 July], when the terrorist attacks happened, all four planned fully booked charter flights left for Sharm el-Sheikh," Tyurina said. "The people who planned to go, went. Sunday evening another fully booked charter plane left [for the resort]."

Tyurina said Russian tourists often behave differently from Westerners, and do not necessarily rush to cancel a vacation because of a bomb attack. She said travel companies are not obligated by Russian law to refund money to tourists who suddenly find themselves headed for insecure destinations like Sharm el-Sheikh.

Travel operators also said that Egypt is one of the few places where Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians can travel visa-free. Under such conditions, it is often for tourists to cancel a journey or resist the temptation of a future vacation at places like Sharm el-Sheikh.
"Without a doubt, the flow of tourists to Egypt will decrease as a result of these events. This week it will be clear how much it will go down."

Travel companies in Ukraine also hope the bombings will not scare tourists from Egypt. But Ihor Holubacha, the head of the Ukrainian Association of Tourism Operators, said the bombings inevitably mean some downturn in business.

"Without a doubt, the flow of tourists to Egypt will decrease as a result of these events," Holubacha said. "This week it will be clear how much it will go down. Of course, such explosions scare people away from these countries -- that's why we forecast that decrease."

Holubacha said travel companies are likely to cut prices of tourist packages to make the destination more attractive.

People in Belarus might appreciate lower fares but appear unfazed by any threat of danger.

"The only thing we need for traveling is money," said one Belarusian. "There is nothing extraordinary going on. Bombings also take place in Russia, so I see no reason not to go to Egypt."

This optimism -- or fatalism, as some may see it -- is good news for Egypt's billion-dollar tourism industry. Tourism is one of Egypt's biggest industries. Eight million people are estimated to have visited the country in 2004.

The vast majority of the people killed in the Sharm el-Sheikh blasts were Egyptians. Of the tourists confirmed dead, there are none from the former Soviet Union.

(RFE/RL's Russian, Belarus, and Ukrainian services contributed to this report.)