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Sunday, 17 December 2017

At long last, Russian flights will be back in February

At long last, Russian flights will be back in February: Egypt and Russia signed a civil aviation security cooperation protocol that would allow direct flights between Moscow and Cairo to resume, starting from February, Reuters reports. The agreement signed between Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov and Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy took place on Friday after Fathy left for Moscow on Thursday, Russian state news agency TASS said.

Only direct flights to Cairo are covered — for now. Importantly, the status of charter flights has yet to be determined and will be discussed at a follow up meeting in April 2018, the Civil Aviation ministry said, according to Ahram Gate. On the possibility of the return of flights to airports of Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, Sokolov said that this will require additional security measures. The signing of the long-awaited agreement comes less than a week after Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the signing of the Dabaa nuclear power plant in Cairo. Russia halted flights to Egypt in the wake of the Metrojet bombing over Sharm El Sheikh in 2015.

Immediately following the signing, reports of Russian tour operators getting ready to open shop in Cairo have emerged. Sokolov said that Russian carrier Aeroflot is ready to begin direct flights between Moscow and Cairo, according to Sputnik. He added that the airline will open its offices and sign contracts with Cairo International Airport.

Welcome news, but different times: The signing of the agreement comes in a year which has seen the tourism sector recover from the loss of Russian tourists, signalling to some degree that Egypt is today much less reliant on Russian tourism receipts. A recent report by state statistics agency CAPMAS said that arrivals from Eastern Europe grew 116.4% y-o-y in October, largely on the back of an 86% increase in tourists from the Ukraine (many of whom are simply Russians coming in the back door). Western European travelers increased 74.7% largely on the back of a 96.8% jump in the number of German tourists. German tour operator sales for holidays in Egypt increased by 55% this year, according to German Travel Association President Norbert Fiebig. Tourism receipts for the quarter grew to USD 2.7 bn y-o-y in 1Q2017-18, up from USD 758 mn in 1Q2016-17, CBE data shows.

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