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Plane hijack to throw Egypt’s tourism industry back to zero — experts

The incident is a unique message to foreign countries that security at Egyptian airports is far from required standards, the head of Egypt's Federation of Tourism says

CAIRO, March 30 /TASS/. The recent hijack of an EgyptAir passenger plane may have an extremely negative impact on Egypt’s tourism sector and throw it back to zero, Elhamy El-Zayat, the head of Egypt's Federation of Tourism, said on Wednesday.

"The incident is a unique message to foreign countries that security at Egyptian airports is far from required standards. It will only impair the perception of security systems at the country’s air hubs," El-Zayat said suggesting extending a contract with the British audit company Control Risks from 6 months to 2 years.

According to the expert, people employed in Egypt’s tourist sector fear that the hijack story will be followed by new warnings against travelling to the Country of Pyramids, and that will inevitably lead to further decline in foreign tourism.

However, El-Zayat’s colleague Mohammed Abdel-Gabbar, the head of the foreign tourism department at the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, said it was too early for drawing any hasty conclusions.

"It is too early to speak about the consequences, which the plane hijack may have for tourism," he said. "This story will certainly be used against Cairo in political terms," Gabbar said. He believes that the incident can further delay the resumption of air flights between Russia and Egypt. The two countries stopped all air connections following the Russian A321 passenger plane crash over the Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian authorities are convinced that someone is building up the negative atmosphere around Egypt in connection with the hijacked plane. On the contrary, a number of Egyptian officials strongly believe that the incident demonstrated good work of the airport’s security services.

"There was no bomb onboard. What the hijacker tried to pass off as a suicide belt, turned out to be plastic cylinders, which cannot be detected by airports’ luggage screening systems," they said though admitting that security checks at domestic flights were laxer than at international destinations.