MOSCOW, August 19 (RIA Novosti) – About 40 percent of Russian tourists who have booked trips to Egypt say they will go ahead as planned despite the unrest in the country, though this proportion is falling every day, a Russian tour operator said Monday.
Last week Russia’s tourism watchdog Rostourism advised operators to stop selling Egypt tours and refund money already paid.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry advised Russians not to visit the country due to the widespread violence that followed the Army’s seizure of power on July 3. International media report that at least 830 people have died in the violence since Wednesday.
“About 40 percent want to fly [to Egypt] no matter what,” general director at Pegas Tours Anna Podgornaya told RIA Novosti, adding that this proportion is falling every day.
She also said that unless the Foreign Ministry changes its travel advice the tourist flow to Egypt will gradually dwindle to zero.
Less than 1 percent of Russians who have cancelled tours to Egypt want their money back, with most preferring to select alternate destinations such as Turkey, Tunisia and the UAE, Podgornaya said.
Another Russian tour operator, Biblio Globus, told RIA Novosti clients can cancel tours booked to Egypt and either get a refund or select alternate destinations, with the most popular options being Turkey and Cyprus.
In a statement issued on Monday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that although the situation in Egypt’s main tourist destinations – Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh – was “generally under control,” its travel advisory remained in place.
Egypt’s tourism minister, Hisham Zaazou, said his country’s popular resort areas were under no threat.
“The situation in the Red Sea resort areas remains unaffected by the recent turbulent events in Cairo and other cities,” he said.
He said that although a small rally was recently held in Hurghada, it was peaceful and took place in residential areas, away from hotels and other tourist infrastructure.
Rostourism chief Alexander Radkov said that although there was no need to evacuate tourists so far, the situation in Egypt was nearing a critical point.
“We understand that the number of tourists there [in Egypt] should be limited, but the tourists who are there are not being evacuated; they continue their vacations and travel companies will have to bring them back [to Russia] in any case. But the process of restricting tour sales should, of course, be in place,” he told the Rossiya 24 state television channel.
No Russian tourists vacationing in Egypt have sought to cut their trip short, a spokesperson for Rostourism said, adding that resort zones remain calm.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has urged all political forces in Egypt to prevent the further escalation of the violence.
Updated to include comments from Russian and Egyptian officials