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Russia’s Public Chamber to ask travel agencies to stop selling travel packages to Egypt

August 15, 2013, 18:49 UTC+3

Growing turmoil deemed unsafe for tourists

1 pages in this article

MOSCOW, August 15 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian Public Chamber, which oversees draft legislation and advises the parliament, is planning to ask the Foreign Ministry and the Russian Tourism Agency (Rostourism) to prohibit the sale of trips to Egypt’s resorts, with the exception of Sharm el-Sheikh, following the deteriorating of the situation in the country.

“We will officially ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Rostourism today to impose a ban on the sale of travel tours to Russian citizens to all tourist areas in Egypt but Sharm el-Sheikh,” Alexander Sokolov, chair of the Public Chamber’s working group on international cooperation and public diplomacy, said on Thursday, August 15.

He said that U.N. peacekeepers were stationed in Sinai where Sharm el-Sheikh is situated and they could ensure security, if need be. “In all other places in Egypt, if serious clashes start, and it seems that that’s what is likely to happen, no one can guarantee tourists’ security,” he said.

Sokolov also believes it necessary to impose “a temporary ban on trips from the Sinai Peninsula to tourist sites in Egypt.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said earlier in the day 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.

Maya Lomidze, Executive Director of the Association of Russian Tour Operators, told ITAR-TASS that the Foreign Ministry’s decision would enable tourists to apply for full compensation of their travel costs.

Disturbances in Cairo and other major Egyptian cities have so far not affected Russian tourists in that country, a representative of the travel company Tez Tour in Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada told ITAR-TASS by telephone. “The situation at resorts is calm. Tourists are enjoying their time. Airports are working as usual, with no changes. Tourists have so far not contacted us with any requests or complaints,” the official said, adding however that security had been stepped up and excursions had been cancelled.

Rostourism will send a special representative to Hurghada shortly to assess the situation on the ground.

Irina Tyurina, spokesperson for the Russian Union of Tourism Industry, said local hotels have advised Russian tourists to stay in and be watchful following the imposition of a 7 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew in the country and resorts.

She said, however, that the tourists who arrive during the curfew would have no difficulty getting to their hotels. “All of them will be transported by buses and no one will have to wait until 6 a.m. at the airport,” Tyurina said, adding that the buses may be stopped at roadblocks for document checks.

The Russian Embassy in Egypt said there was no threat to Russian tourists at Egyptian resorts. “The situation at resorts is calm. Nothing extraordinary has been registered there. There is no threat to tourists,” Izeddin Shakhin, the embassy’s spokesperson, told ITAR-TASS.

He said “the government of Egypt pays much attention to the security of tourists, especially Russians ones.”

Shakhin noted that the general situation in the country “is one the way to stabilisation.”

Mass clashes between police and the supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi occurred in Cairo, Alexandria and other Egyptian cities on Wednesday, August 14. As a result, 421 people were killed, according to official reports. A state of emergency and a curfew were introduced.

There are no casualties among the Russian tourists vacationing in Egypt now, the Foreign Ministry said.

“To avoid possible problems for visitors due to the serious deterioration of the security situation in Cairo, the decision has been made to suspend the work of the consular section of the Russian Embassy for two days. The consular section’s telephones, including the crisis hot line, will continue working,” the 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.

There are about 40,000 Russian tourists vacationing in Egypt now.

The Russian Foreign Ministry Russia urged all political forces in Egypt to show restraint in the current crisis.

“At this time of hardships that Egypt is living through we reiterate our call to all political forces in this friendly country to show restraint and take guidance from the highest national interests in order to prevent further escalation of tension and avoid new casualties,” the Foreign Ministry said.

It expressed confidence that “further democratic changes and deep reforms in the interests of all Egyptians can be carried out through broad dialogue and resumption of the political process on the basis of national consensus.”

The ministry advised Russian tourists vacationing in Egypt to stay away from regions swept by protests and refrain from travelling beyond their respective resorts.

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