AFP – Last month’s deadly Russian jet crash in Egypt has plunged the north African tourist industry further into crisis, with resorts seen as less risky now likely to benefit from the shifting travel patterns, experts said.
Sunseeking travelers are also likely to place particular emphasis on the reputation of particular airports when making plans, although attractive prices are certain to still be a major factor.
Some 9.9 million tourists visited Egypt last year — almost half of them going to Red Sea resorts.
But the total was far lower than the 14.7 million who visited in 2010, before the Arab Spring uprisings, and that figure is likely to drop further.
All 224 people on board the flight from Egyptian resort Sharm El-Sheikh were killed when it came down in Sinai last week and Britain has said a bomb planted by Daesh (the so-called IS) was most likely responsible.
Heightened instability has also put off visitors to some parts of Turkey, while the European migrant crisis has done the same for some Greek islands.
Derek Moore, chairman of Britain’s Association of Independent Tour Operators, said that following the crash “the key to air travel… will be the reputation of particular airports. A holiday involving a flight back from a potentially ‘risky’ airport would probably not be seen as OK,” Moore said.
Any decline in tourist numbers to areas seen as risky could be a gain for other travel spots. Here are five destinations that may be set to benefit:
• Gulf states: European tourists could turn to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and Oman as luxury and shopping destinations with a hot climate, solid infrastructure and coral reefs, according to Popova.
• Russia: Falling oil prices have sunk Russia’s currency and massively inflated the cost of foreign travel.
Travel industry expert Air4casts predict that there will be a “secondary diversion to domestic Russian destinations” as Russians decide to stay at home for their holidays.
• Turkey: Nervous Russians have already begun rebooking their Egyptian breaks for Turkey, according to travel industry experts Air4Casts. Despite neighboring lawless Syria and suffering its own deadly attacks, Turkey looks set to benefit thanks to its reputation as being tough on security, early campaigns to attract customers, improved travel infrastructure and new hotel openings.
• Cyprus: Tourism Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis told parliament the Russian airliner tragedy had prompted new tourism interest to Cyprus as an alternative to Egypt. He said there was initial interest in operating nine extra flights between Russia and Cyprus in November — carrying 400 Russians on each flight.
• Traditional resorts: Moore said this summer had already been “a shift of traffic to the western Mediterranean — principally Spain”. Winter traffic could also move towards Spain’s Canary Islands — just off the southern tip of Morocco.
“Russians traditionally favor such summer destinations as Greece, Spain, Thailand, Italy, Turkey and Bulgaria,” said Popova.