Egypt has borne the brunt of an international struggle against extremism – its tourism industry is on the verge of collapse and the once world famous and extremely popular Med resort town of Sharm El Sheikh remains on the brink.
It’s a damn shame because it is an absolutely stunning and beautiful place.
The BBC is reporting that Thomas Cook has extended its suspension of operations into Sharm till at least late April 2017. This is on top of British Airways withdrawing from the route altogether (no return date mentioned) and Monarch Airways until January 24, 2017, tentatively. easyJet, Europe’s second biggest low cost airline, has said their earliest return date is February 28, 2017.
Basically all British operators into Sharm (a popular destination for Brits and other Europeans during the cold and dark winter months in Europe) are saying they need to see tangible upgrades to the security in place at the airport before they consider re-opening flights. This all comes after the horrific MetroJet crash last year which killed over 200 holiday makers and caused doubts as to the levels of security offered at the airport. Whilst the official cause of the crash hasn’t been yet confirmed, terrorism has been long speculated. Access to ID cards, vetting or airport and contract employees and security officials have all been questioned. And reasonably so, some notable holes in Egypt’s airport security infrastructure have emerged.
It is understandable that airlines are hesitant to operate into Sharm El Sheik even during the peak winter season – it also shows their level of concern that they were willing to cancel a very profitable route due to their doubts of the safety of their passengers and crew.
The other problem however is that whilst traditionally a high demand route, will it still be if and when the route is resumed by these airlines? It will take some time for the stigma of what’s going on in Egypt to be overcome and the trust in Egypt’s tourism and security infrastructure to be rebuilt. It’s also up to the government in Cairo to take a hold of the situation and actually improve the gaping holes in their intelligence, security and tourism apparatus. That will take time, and people will have to be patient – it’s a game of waiting it the worst to see if things have really improved security wise or if it’s yet another false dawn.
One thing is certain – it is most definitely in the interest of Egypt’s long term future to get their act together and salvage what’s left of their once burgeoning tourism industry. Their ancestors left them a wealth of treasures – hell, one of the beginnings of civilization – now its time to preserve them and treat them with the respect it deserves and showcase the strength and prowess of the Egyptian civilization and people to the world.