''If the authorities 'green-light', tour operators will send tourists to Sinai already in a week's time''

Realnoe Vremya experts tell about how the tourism market in Russia will develop after the opening of Egypt

''If the authorities 'green-light', tour operators will send tourists to Sinai already in a week's time'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

The Russian tourism market is being at standstill in anticipation of a resumption of flights to Egypt. It is being discussed only the option with flights from Moscow to Cairo so far, but this already suggests a possible opening for Russian citizens of the Red Sea resorts. Realnoe Vremya experts draw a parallel between the story with Egypt and the situation with Turkey, do not expect a fleet increase of Russian companies and predict a redistribution of tourist flow only in the case if the Egyptian hoteliers reduce the cost of accomodation.

On the road to opening

After more than two years after the crash of Kogalymavia [Metrojet] over Sinai between Egypt and Russia there has appeared a very clear prospect of air communication resumption and, as a consequence, of tourism partnership. Literally a cry from the depth has marked this news — on the eve of Putin's visit, the famous Egyptian publication Al-Youm al-Sabia came out with the headline in Russian, ''Mr. President of Russia, welcome to Egypt!'', ''Mr. President, when Russian tourism will return to Egypt?'' The article published under these headlines was devoted to the meeting between the two leaders.

The eighth meeting of Putin and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has partially given an answer to this question. Vladimir Putin stated that Russia is ready to open direct flights to Egypt, and now the matter depends on the preparation of an agreement algorithm for flight resumption.

''After the terrible tragedy in the skies over Sinai, the direct air communication between our countries was interrupted. During this time, the Egyptian side has done a lot of work to improve the level of security at airports. The security service of Russia reported to me that in general we are ready for the opening of direct flights between Moscow and Cairo,'' he stated.

The eighth meeting of Putin and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has partially given an answer to this question. Photo: kremlin.ru

Russian tourists decided not to reconcile themselves to the closure of Egypt

According to the statistics presented to Realnoe Vremya by the services for looking and buying tickets and tours, far not everyone decided to put up with the closure of Egypt for Russian tourists. According to OneTwoTrip, over 11 months of 2017, the sale of tickets from Russian cities to this direction compared to the same period last year increased by 30%. This is despite the fact that all the flights are carried out with transfers. The first popular resort town is Sharm El Sheikh, which occupies 40% of the total volume of tickets. The second place with 34% is taken by Hurghada, and the third with 26% — Cairo. 92% of all independent tourists fly to Egypt via Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

According to Aviasales, the number of searches from Russia to Egypt in 2017 increased by 57%. In the service they clarify that even rising prices do not bother tourists: the average price rose by a quarter in a year, in the result of which the cheapest tickets via Moscow to Hurghada and back cost 16,224 rubles. To get to Egypt, travelers mainly choose transfers in Istanbul, Vienna and Rome.

''The increase is connected with the fact that Russians have already accepted the ban on direct flights to Egypt and look for options on how to reach there independently more often. Alternatives to Egypt by price and range of services, frankly speaking, are not enough. A couple of travelers can easily rest here for 50,000 rubles all inclusive (with flights). To find in January something similar in Israel or the UAE is simply impossible,'' they commented in Aviasales.

Not everyone decided to put up with the closure of Egypt for Russian tourists. Photo: Maksim Platonov

Is Kazan interested?

In turn, Kazan citizens, at least, in the New Year holidays, do not have special interest in the resorts of Egypt. The international travel metasearch momondo.ru recorded in this period a fall in demand by 69%. This is largely due to the fact that the new year period, the average price of tickets from Kazan with a transfer and the final destination in Egypt has increased compared to the previous year by 12,4% and amounted to 60,500 rubles.

Realnoe Vremya asked experts in tourism industry to comment on the prospect of opening the Egyptian destination in the Russian market.

  • Dmitry Malyutin

    Dmitry Malyutin director general of the service for online booking of tours Level.Travel

    The situation with Egypt will not develop very fast. First, it will be resumed regular flights to Cairo, and then a decision will be made about the opening of charter flights to Egyptian resorts.

    Before the closure of Egypt, the country was the second most popular destination among Russians. It is important to understand that this is a year-round recreation with clear infrastructure and quality of service. As soon as the government makes a statement on resumption of tourist traffic, tour operators will proceed to the formation of charter programmes immediately. We expect a high demand on this destination. I am sure that the number of tourists in general will be redistributed. The growth of interest in Egypt and a resumption of high demand depend on what pricing policy the Egyptian hoteliers will choose. Most likely, it will remind the Turkish scenario, where hotels in order to attract Russian tourists reduced their prices for the season. Highly because of this, the passenger traffic to Turkey will recover incredibly quickly. Maybe Egypt will grow not so intensively, but, of course, it will attract a considerable part of the tourists.

  • Nargiza Abdullaeva

    Nargiza Abdullaeva the founder of the travel boutique WowTravel

    The flights Moscow-Cairo, of course, will encourage the tourists frozen in anticipation of the opening of Egypt. However, the flight to Cairo is still not so convenient, and tourists, accustomed to comfort, obviously won't take that option. Also, the category of tourists choosing Egypt for the reason of budget saving will also not use the flight option because of its cost. But in general, the opening of Egypt as a destination for citizens of the Russian Federation will please those who miss the reefs of the Red Sea — and they are many.

    I think, no one will rush with opening of mass destinations, and, perhaps, charter flights. There are two pitfalls: the first — how ready the infrastructure of half-empty resorts now, two years later, is to receive tourists. I regularly through personal contacts with employees of the best hotels in Sharm El Sheikh find out about the situation and condition of the accommodation — and it is very sad. A sharp decline in the flow of tourists made all hotels to save and reduce costs and, therefore, there is bad service, food and everything else. How to offer Egypt to customers is a big question. Any sale of this direction is out of the question before I see how things are going with my own eyes. The second point — we must all understand that the opening of Egypt will reduce the demand for alternative directions. One of those is Russia, which is already for the third season in a row is still in great demand among our fellow citizens.

    I think the opening of mass passenger flow will be possible closer to the summer, when it does not hurt much the sales to the other resorts, since most decent hotels are filled already now, by early booking. It would be convenient. While it is being a low season for Egypt, we should see everything and understand the level of this direction for today. But Egypt, in any case, is not the same as Turkey — not everyone treats this country the same as before, with reverent love – many people after all the events do not trust this direction. Plus, the security of our fellow citizens have become more cautious, which is good news. Although this is very individual. Someone will fly without thinking – it is primarily concerns economical vacation.

  • Timur Yusupov the representative of tutu.ru

    The launch of regular flights between Moscow and Cairo can be called an important signal for the tourism industry, which is for already two years waiting for opening of this destination for organized travelers. It is too early to talk about a resumption of charter programmes, however, in the case if the authorities green-light, the tour operators will send tourists to Sinai already in a week's time. I am talking about one or two aircrafts — they can be removed from the least loaded destinations. However, it will be difficult to find reserves after the withdrawal from the market of Transaero and VIM-Avia, on flights of which there were built the charter programmes of many operators.

    One should not wait for new airlines. Egypt is a seasonal direction, where mainly charter flights fly. Rather, we can say that tour operators will 'throw' on the Egyptian resorts other aircrafts from other countries, which in recent years have acted as an alternative to Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh. For example, Tunisia or winter Turkey.

    When choosing destination, Russian tourists are thinking about the security not in the first place. According to analysts of tutu.ru, usually demand for one or the other destinations shows a decrease immediately after any high-profile events — riots, terrorist attacks, military actions and so on. However, the interest of Russians to the tickets is restored quickly enough.

    At the same time, despite the lack of direct flights to Egypt since 2015, the Russians do not lose hope to go on vacation to this country. According to analysts of tutu.ru, more than 1% of all search queries on the service's website accounts for Egypt. Those who can't wait for the opening of direct flights, they find bypasses. For example, they get into the country by connecting flights. The number of searches of tickets reaches thousands a month, but the actual purchases are rare. Their number rarely exceeds a few dozen a month. The reason for this may be a high price for flights (from 16,000 rubles in both directions), the presence of transfers, and the availability of other offers on the market.

  • Irina Ryabovol

    Irina Ryabovol the representative of the international tourist meta search engine momondo.ru

    Most often, the Kazan citizens, like Russians in general, are interested in resorts on the Red Sea and not trips to the capital of Egypt. That is why the flight Moscow — Cairo, which is scheduled to open at the beginning of next year, will hardly have a major impact on the demand among travellers from Kazan. Because with them citizens will have to make two transfers on the way to their favorite beaches. At the moment, the best flights are via Istanbul.

    In general, the demand for trips to Egypt in 2017 has increased by 44% in Russia in comparison to the past year. After the flights from Moscow to Cairo are opened, the demand may demonstrate an active growth, mainly due to Moscow citizens. But it happens only in the case if the travel via the capital to the resorts turns out to be cheaper that transit in other cities.

By Maria Gorozhaninova