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In blow for tourism, tour operator sales from Russia to Egypt down 70%

Egypt, the most popular holiday spot for Russians, is heavily reliant on its tourism industry
Tourists wait at the airport in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on 6 November 2015 (AFP)

Russia’s decision to cancel all flights to Egypt has affected a marked sales drop for tour operators of 30 to 50 percent on Saturday, according to Irina Tyurina, the spokesperson for the Russian tourism union.

Sales on Monday are at a near standstill, Tyurina added.

Egypt is the most popular holiday spot for Russians. In the first half of 2015, over one million Russians visited the country, according to Russian statistics bureau Rosstat.

According to the New York Times, bookings from Russia to Egypt fell to 70 percent overall in the aftermath of the Metrojet plane crash over the Sinai Peninsula on 31 October.

Before the Metrojet plane crash, where all 224 passengers on board were killed, more than 25 flights travelled from Egypt to Russia every day, said the Russian Tour Operators Association.

The cause of the plane crash is still under investigation, with Russia changing its original speculation from thinking it was a technical fault to now giving more credence to whether a bomb was smuggled onto the place by a crew member or passenger.

45,000 Russians are currently stranded in Egypt, with the Russian president ordering his government to undertake the necessary measures to bring them home.

At an emergency meeting in Moscow, the head of Russia's FSB security service, Alexander Bortnikov, said it would be practical to halt flights for now.

"Until we have determined the true reasons for what happened, I consider it expedient to stop flights by Russian aviation to Egypt," Bortnikov said.

A government spokesperson for Russian president Vladimir Putin said that the suspension of all flights to Egypt will remain in place until proper security is in place, and denied that the decision reflects Russia’s belief that terrorism is the reason behind the Metrojet plane crash.

“It definitely doesn’t mean that,” said Dmitry Peskoy to reporters on Friday. “Not a single theory can be given priority, since there aren’t any definite indications to prove it.”

Egypt is heavily reliant on its tourism industry, where an estimated one in nine Egyptians dependent on tourism for their living.

Since the 2011 ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, the tourism sector was badly affected but the Red Sea beach resorts recently witnessed a resurgence of tourists.

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