Six days after flights between Russia and Egypt were suspended, the Russian tourism industry has already taken a major hit. Russian tour operators have lost 1.5 billion rubles -- about $23 million -- since flights were suspended Nov. 6, The Moscow Times reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended all commercial flights between Russia and Egypt and began evacuating tourists from the Middle East country after speculation arose that a bomb caused a Russian plane crash on Oct. 31. While the Kremlin initially said it had not concluded there was terrorist involvement in the crash, the government’s decision to suspend flights was seen as an acknowledgement of security concerns in the area.
The most significant losses for tourism operators have come from their need to fly empty planes to Egypt to evacuate Russian tourists, according to Russian Tourism Industry Union spokeswoman Irina Tyurina. Each empty plane seat costs Russian tourism companies about $125, Russian media reported.
Egypt is one of Russia’s most popular travel destinations -- last year, about 3 million Russians visited Egypt’s resorts, the BBC reported. Before flights were suspended, Egyptian resorts had about 79,000 Russian people staying in them, the Association of Russian Tour Operators Vice President Dmitry Gorin told Russian media outlets Monday. Last weekend, about 15,000 of those tourists were evacuated, and Gorin said he expected the rate of evacuations to increase this week.
"When vacation ends, [people] return on their [scheduled] flights but without luggage," he said, according to Russian news agency TASS.
As both Russia and the U.K. have canceled flights to Egypt, the country’s tourism industry is also struggling. Egypt could lose 2.2 billion Egyptian pounds, or $280 million, per month due to the flight cancelations, according to the BBC. Two-thirds of tourists to Sharm el-Sheikh, where the plane that crashed originated, come from Russia and Egypt, and the tourist destination accounts for about one-third of the country’s total tourism proceeds.
Russian officials have said it could take “several months, as a minimum” for Russian airlines to resume flying to Sharm el-Sheikh, so local business owners are bracing themselves to deal with the downturn.
Russia’s tour operators association sent a letter earlier this week to Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich outlining a set of proposals to help their tourism industry. If flights remain suspended for two or three months, Russian tour companies could lose an additional $200 million, The Moscow Times reported.