SHARM EL-SHEIHK, Egypt – A breakthrough in the ailing tourism sector in Egypt is expected soon, following the recent and coming visits of foreign delegations from Britain, France and Russia, to check security measures in the country, especially in the popular Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, South Sinai governor, Khaled Fouda told Xinhua, in a recent exclusive interview.

“The return of tourists to Sharm El-Sheikh is so close and there will be a big breakthrough in the coming period,” Fouda said, noting the recent visit of a British parliamentary delegation in late July, left them “a very good impression in terms of security measures, order and cleanliness in the city.”

“A member of the three-member delegation from the British House of Commons even said, in a later press conference that, he regretted not bringing his wife, saying, he will bring her to Sharm El-Sheikh next time,” the governor said.

He said, the British delegation’s visit was “more than wonderful,” where they saw the traffic inside the airport, the two checkpoints, the places of loading luggage and all security procedures.

Fouda pointed out that, several other delegations from France, Russia, Germany and other countries visited Sharm El-Sheikh, to check the security procedures and they all left with satisfactory impressions.

Egypt has been struggling to survive a sharp tourism recession over the past few years, due to political turmoil.

The situation further deteriorated due to a Russian plane crash in Sinai that killed over 200, mostly Russians, in Oct last year, an Italian student’s mysterious death in Cairo, in early Feb and a tragic fall of an EgyptAir flight in May, that killed all 66 people on board, including 15 French nationals.

The security concerns led Russia and some Western states, including Britain, to ban their citizens from visiting the country, which represented a blow to the country’s economy, where tourism represents a main source of national income and foreign currency with some four million people working in the field.

The South Sinai governor said, there is about 30 percent to 40 percent decline in tourism in Sharm El-Sheikh at present, compared to the same period last year.

“We lost around 2.5 billion dollars over the past 10 months, which negatively affected our economy,” Fouda told Xinhua, noting, the lost revenues could have been used in building more hospitals and schools, improving education, providing job opportunities and other purposes.

The deadly Russian plane crash that took place in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula was claimed by a Sinai-based militant group affiliated with the regional Daesh.

Fouda said, the anti-Egypt travel ban was “a reward to terrorism,” and that, countries should rather cooperate and work with Egypt, to fix any issues or shortages, instead of rewarding terrorism by harming tourism.

“On Aug 17 (today), a high-profile Russian delegation is scheduled to visit Sharm El-Sheikh, for a final check to report to the Russian government, and this may mark a start for the return of Russian tourists,” Fouda told Xinhua, hoping they will be satisfied with the security measures at the airport and the city in general.

The governor said, he paid a visit to Germany a few days ago and some German tourist companies announced, they will start visiting Sharm El-Sheikh in late Sept and early Oct, noting Germany was not among the Western states that imposed a travel ban to Egypt, but it just needed reassurance about the security conditions in the country.

“Also, a Polish tour company already started to come to Sharm El-Sheikh from Aug 9, arranging a flight every week. I met with the head of the Polish company in Sharm El-Sheikh and he said, there will be two flights per week from Aug 23,” Fouda added.

As for Chinese tourists, the governor said that, they are not that many in Sharm El-Sheikh for the time being, expecting larger numbers in the near future, given the distinguished bilateral relations between the two countries.

“We respect the great, hardworking Chinese people, who developed their country and put it in the ranks of big powers. We tell them that Egypt is the right destination for their enjoyment, leisure, vacation and therapy. So, we tell our brothers and friends in China that, they are so welcomed in the city of peace, the city of Sharm El-Sheikh,” Fouda said in a message to China and its people.

The number of Chinese visitors to Egypt increased from 65,000 to 135,000 in 2015, and the tourism ministry has been targeting to multiply the number in 2016.

“I assure you that the city, as you see, is well-secured and its airport is technologically re-secured, as testified by the foreign delegations that visited the city,” the governor added.

“The visitors who come to Egypt leave it with better understanding of its civilisation and culture. We are friendly nations and tourism is a means of bringing people closer and improving their relations,” the governor concluded.

Source: Name News Network