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    Tourists leave the beach at a resort where many stranded tourists are waiting for evacuation, in Sharm el-Sheikh, south Sinai, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015

    Egypt's Tourism Industry Hopes for Resumption of Air Links With Russia in 2017

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    Egypt hopes for its tourist sector to do better in 2017 after a disappointing 2016, but the sector needs an influx of Russian tourists for a noticeable boost.

    CAIRO, January 2 (Sputnik) — Russia suspended flights to and from Egypt after an Airbus A321 plane flying to St. Petersburg crashed in the Sinai Peninsula soon after taking off from Sharm El-Sheikh on October 31, 2015, killing all 224 people aboard.

    END-OF-YEAR CHECKS

    In the run-up to the end-of-year celebrations, yet another group of experts from Russia came to check on Cairo International Airport with a special focus on security measures and new equipment installed in the second terminal of the airport. Russia's Aeroflot is expected to start flying there after the ban on aviation travel between Russia and Egypt is lifted.

    According to Egypt's civil aviation authority, while there have been no new information on lifting the restrictions, the two sides agreed to exchange visits in January, but Russian experts had given a positive assessment to the equipment and security measures at the airport.

    It is unclear how many checks it will take to resume the flights between the two countries. A few deadlines for the resumption had already been forecast with none of the predictions having come true so far, but discussions of air travel between presidents of Russia and Egypt seem to offer some hope.

    YEAR OF HARD WORK

    The Egyptian authorities have said repeatedly that everything possible had been done and continued to be done to ensure the utmost security and safety at Egypt airports.

    "We are now proud that the security measures at our airports are harsher than at a number of busy airports of European cities," Mahmoud Qatt, an expert at the accident investigation department at the Ministry of Civil Aviation, told RIA Novosti.

    According to security analyst Khaled Okasha, Cairo understood Moscow's concerns about possible attacks on Russian citizens.

    "In any case, Egypt fulfilled all its obligations in terms of security and equipment. It has to be noted that the representatives of different countries, who had visited Egyptian airports, remarked on a significant progress," Okasha told RIA Novosti.

    GOAL OF 10 MILLION TOURISTS

    Egyptian Minister of Tourism Mohamed Yehia Rashed said in the end of the last year that 2017 could be the time of the rebirth of the tourism business.

    "The ministry of tourism has set a goal to accommodate 10 million tourists in 2017. This would signify the return to the 2015 level," the minister said.

    Rashed admitted that 2016 had been difficult for the sector because of the crash of the Russian plane and subsequent restriction on flights from a number of countries, most notably, from Russia and the United Kingdom. These two countries provided 60 percent of all foreign tourists in Egypt,

    At the moment, the number of tourists in the country is slowly growing, with some countries resuming air travel and others promising to do it in the near future. Egyptian experts are certain that the tourists will come back en masse when Russia lifts the ban on travel.

    IMPROVEMENT IN SIGHT

    Tourism needs government's help to stay afloat, at least, those hotels that remain open and thus lose money, according to the experts, interviewed by the Egyptian news outlet Veto.

    The minister of tourism said that 5.3 million tourists came to Egypt in 2016, which is a 40-percent drop compared to the previous year.

    "However, an improvement could be seen by the end of the year, and we are certain that the sector will soon return to its usual results," the minister said.

    Rashed urged the tourism professionals to keep up their effort to modernize the sector and maintain its attractiveness for foreigners.

    Related:

    Egypt Hurghada Airport Denies Reports of Reserving Terminal for Russian Tourists
    Egypt's Hurghada Airport to Reserve Second Terminal for Russian Tourists
    First Russian Tourists May Fly to Egypt in October
    Egypt Ready to Create Separate Security Zones for Russian Tourists in Airports
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    security, flights, tourism, Egypt, Russia
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