MOSCOW, August 28 (Itar-Tass) -The Federal Tourism Agency (Rosturism) has criticized as irresponsible travel agents who have resumed sale of tours to Egypt despite the recommendations of the Russian Foreign Ministry which warned the Russian citizens against visits to Egypt.
Rosturism regards as inadmissible the resumption of the travel programs to Egypt and has asked for explanations why these travel agents decided to resume the sale of the tours or have not even suspended them in circumvention of the recommendations issued by the Foreign Ministry, Rosturism said.
On August 27 the Coral Travel and Sunmar travel agencies released information on their websites that the tours to Egypt had been resumed.
Rosturism said that the number of Russian tourists staying at Egyptian health resorts is around 15,000. All the Russian tourists are planned to leave Egypt by the end of September, it said.
The situation at the Egyptian resorts remains calm, but Rosturism sees no reason yet to withdraw the negative recommendations as regards the trips to Egypt.
Rosturism did not rule out that the tours to Egypt might be resumed in winter. In the meantime, Russian tourists have been making reservations and buying tours to Egypt from the travel operators who have not yet fully suspended the sale of the tours to that destination. Earlier, Rosturism had recommended that travel agencies reduce the number of tours to Egypt and reschedule tourists to different destinations. Operators were ordered to tell clients about developments at Egyptian resorts, using all information channels.
Following some tour operators’ decision to resume selling tours to Egyptian resorts, Rostourism reiterated that Russian citizens should refrain from travelling to Egypt because of mass riots and public protests there now.
“Despite the recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Rostourism, we have been receiving reports indicating that some Russian tour operators continue to sell tours to Egypt or intend to start sending Russian tourists to the Red Sea coast again from September. In this connection, Rostourism reiterates its strong recommendation to Russian tourists to refrain from travelling to Egypt for tourism purposes until the situation in that country normalised,” the agency said in a note posted on its official website on Wednesday, August 28.
“Despite the agency’s warnings and recommendations, there are tourists who insist that we fulfill our obligations and sell them tours. They make up about 30-35 percent of all tourists,” Pegasus Touristic Director-General Anna Podgornaya said.
She said that the company had cut its Egyptian programme fivefold last week following the travel advisories issued by the Foreign Ministry and Rostourism. Prior to that, the company had been sending tourists to Egypt from 30 Russian regions, compared to six now.
There are about 15,000 Russian tourists in Egypt. All of them are expected to leave the country by September 1, Rostourism spokesperson Irina Shchegolkova said.
“Since practically all tour operators have suspended the sale of tours to Egypt and airlines are promptly transporting the remaining tourists, plus some people have decided to cut their vacations short, no Russians will be left in that country by September 1,” she told ITAR-TASS.
According to Rostourism, there were 15,000 Russian tourists in Egypt as of August 24: 7,000 in Hurghada and 8,000 in Sharm el-Sheikh. “However this figure is much smaller now as a rather large number of Russians returned home over the weekend,” Shchegolkova said.
Russian tour operators’ losses from instability in Egypt may amount to 50 million U.S. dollars, Rostourism Deputy Head Dmitry Pisarevsky said.
A Rostourism official flew to Egypt in the middle of August to meet with the Egyptian authorities in the tourist provinces and representatives of travel agencies in Egypt.
Rostourism had advised tour operators to reduce traffic to Egypt but said there was no question of evacuating Russian tourists from that country. Many Russians had started giving up their purchased tours to Egypt.
On August 15, the Foreign Ministry advised Russian citizens to refrain from traveling to Egypt. Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that “the clashes and riots in the [Egyptian] capital are quickly spreading to other cities and regions of Egypt, including those that are visited by tourists” and advised Russian citizens to refrain from travelling to Egypt.
The ministry said that the situation in the country in general remained tense. Mass clashes between police and the supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi occurred in Cairo, Alexandria and other Egyptian cities. A state of emergency and a curfew were introduced.
According to official reports, about 900 people have been killed and thousands injured in Egypt since the start of the acute phase of confrontation in the country.
There are no casualties among the Russian tourists vacationing in Egypt now, the Foreign Ministry said. It advised Russian citizens in Egypt to avoid areas where mass protests are taking place, and those who are arriving in the country as tourists to refrain from trips beyond the resorts and exclude visits to Cairo and other major cities.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “very disturbing conditions continue” in Egypt.
“In the great, historic whirlwind known as the Arab Spring, the Egyptian people achieved victory that set them toward freedom and democracy. However, after former President Mohamad Morsi was ousted from office recently, Egypt has been plagued by extreme polarization and violent clashes, costing countless human lives,” he said.
Ban sent his Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman, who is in charge of Political Affairs, to the Middle East in a bid to ease tensions there, in cooperation with the concerned States. He urged “the Egyptian military as well as all leaders of various political blocs to put an immediately stop to the violence and embark on a process of national reconciliation and unity. All leaders must look beyond partisan interests to find a political resolution through engagement and compromise. This should be based on a perspective of placing the utmost priority on the happiness and wellbeing of the people.”