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Thursday, 25 May 2017

Negotiations to resume flights with Russia stalling?

Russians still playing hardball on resuming flights despite resurgence in Egypt tourism from other sources: Talks between Russia and Egypt are essentially going nowhere. That’s our take based on remarks by Russia’s Deputy Transportation Minister Valery Okulov carried in Sputnik Arabic, which suggest the Russians haven’t grown bored with their tourists-for-nuke-plant extortion tactics. Okulov refused to comment on when he expects flights to resume, adding that media reports on a change in the Russian position was conjecture. Russia has not changed its stance on the issue since February, he said.

At issue: The USD 30 bn Dabaa nuclear power plant, for which the final contracts are now said to be due for signing “before the month is out.” (We don’t see the nuke issue spilling over and hitting the sale of Russian shipborne Ka-52K Katran combat helicopters for Egypt’s Mistral-class helicopter carriers. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov confirmed to Sputnik on Tuesday that the talks were taking place.)

…Maybe we should be saying “Dasvidaniya” to the Ruskies and “Willkommen” to the Germans? Egypt is expecting up to 1 mn German tourists in FY2017, Mohamed Abdel Gabbar, tourism director of the Egyptian embassy in Berlin, tells German tourism portal FVW. This would be around a 50% year-on-year increase from last year’s figure of just over 650K, he added. We had noted that number of German tourists visiting increased 35% y-o-y in 1Q17. The optimism appears reflected in the opinions of tour operators in Germany that took part in a workshop held by the outlet. Some, including travel agency Ihr Reiseladen’s Kerstin Hesse, praised security of key German hotspots and downplayed any danger from recent terror attacks (security concerns are the coat hanger on which the Russians are hanging their withholding of flights).

Prevailing wisdom among German operators is that the resurgence in German comes down to how cheap prices are. “The value for money is brilliant,” declared TUI’s Patrick Geyer. “Our partners have really invested in the product.”

The optimism about a resurgence of tourism isn’t limited to Germany. A number of other international operators tell Travel Weekly about spikes in bookings to Egypt. Intrepid has increased its Egypt departures by 140%, to 48, for 2017, compared with the 20 it offered in 2016, while Tourico Holidays, a Florida-based global travel distribution company, has also seen a 300% jump in reservations to Egypt compared with last year. US-based Viking Cruises is even relaunching its Nile cruise line.

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