Egypt is a very popular holiday destination for both Russians and Ukrainians. But due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the number of tourists from both countries has decreased dramatically.
Majority of tourists from Russia and Ukraine
Before Covid-19, Russia and Ukraine together accounted for about a third of the total number of tourists in Egypt. In 2019, more than 1.6 million Ukrainian tourists visited Egypt. The country also welcomes between 300,000 and 500,000 tourists from Russia every month. Egypt tries to make it as easy as possible for travellers from these countries to travel there. The visa rules for Russians and Ukrainians are very favourable. Travellers from both countries can apply for an e-visa before departure or for a visa on arrival at the airport in Egypt. A visit to the embassy is therefore not necessary. Russians travelling in groups of five or more do not even need a visa.
Since the war started in Ukraine, holiday bookings from these countries have virtually stopped. Many people in Ukraine have been displaced by the Russian invasion. In addition, both Ukrainians and Russians are afraid they will not be able to return home in case they go abroad. There are currently thousands of stranded Russians and Ukrainians in Egypt. They cannot book a flight home because most airlines are not operating in Russia or Ukraine. Recently, the Egyptian government announced that fines for overstaying visas will temporarily not apply to Russian and Ukrainian tourists in Egypt. Additionally, the government is in talks with Egypt Air among others to examine the possibility of repatriating travellers as soon as possible.
Egyptian economy still recovering
The sharp decline in tourists from Russia and Ukraine is not the only setback the Egyptian economy has faced in recent years. In 2015, a passenger flight crashed over the Sinai causing Russia to temporarily halt all flights to Egypt. The Covid-19 pandemic has also hit Egypt hard. The country is largely dependent on tourism from abroad. Not only has Covid-19 caused the national treasury to lose money, but also thousands of jobs. This was also the main reason why Egypt was one of the first countries to reopen its borders. In the past year, the tourism sector in Egypt has recovered significantly. Russia decided to allow flights to Egypt again in 2021 and the Egyptian government has invested millions in projects to attract tourists. Several museums have been renovated and the government is organising large-scale events, such as parades and international sports events.
The government’s efforts are clearly paying off. In 2021, the income from tourism was 13 billion dollars. By comparison, 2020 ended on 4 billion dollars. Although it is not yet at the pre-Covid-19 level, the government is satisfied with the progress made.
Other countries must step in
Egypt is looking to other countries to make up for the lack of tourism from Russia and Ukraine. The country is also popular with travellers from the UK and Germany. The same rules as Russians and Ukrainians are applied to British and German travellers. Recently, the British government withdrew its negative travel advice for South Sinai and Faiyum and the German government no longers considers Egypt high-risk. The Egyptian government wants to strengthen ties with these two countries to increase the number of tourists to Egypt in the long run.