Egypt shifts UK focus from Sharm el Sheikh to Hurghada

The Egyptian State Tourist Authority has thrown its full marketing weight behind Hurghada and aims to double UK visitor numbers to the resort as the flight ban to Sharm el Sheikh remains in place.

The UK – formerly Egypt’s number one source market – now only sends a quarter of the numbers Germany does to the country.

UK arrivals in 2017 were around 320,000, down from around 800,000 per annum before a Russian Metrojet charter flight was bombed shortly after take-off from Sharm el-Sheik airport in October 2015.

The UK government still has a flight ban to Sharm in place whereas Russia resumed flights in January. Sharm el Sheikh airport has had British security experts come in since the incident to review its security procedures.

In a media briefing on Tuesday morning, Amr El-Ezabi, UK and Ireland director of the Egyptian State Tourist Authority, said: “The British market used to have a preference for Sharm rather than Hurghada. But this year our strategy is focussed on Hurghada.”

He said they would be using the name of resorts including Hurghada, as well as Luxor and Marsa Alam, in a marketing campaign due to launch in April. The number of flights from the UK to Hurghada for summer 2018 has been increased from 18 to 25 and UK arrivals are 38% up on last year.

“If we look at what’s happening in the UK, Hughada is growing slowly, in a discreet way,” said El-Ezabi. “But I think it needs to be better known, like Sharm. Sharm is as famous as Egypt. We will be making Hurghada, and Marsa Alam, more recognisable.

El-Ezabi said the official target was to increase UK arrivals in the region by 40%, but added: “We believe in this product and we think the British market can easily double its capacity in Hurghada.”

In summer 2019, there will be four direct flights from the UK to Luxor – up from the one from Heathrow on board EgyptAir that currently flies the route.

Thomas Cook added Marsa Alam to its winter 2017/18 programme with direct flights to Sharm off limits.

On the UK government’s decision to stick with its ban on flights to Sharm el Sheikh, El-Ezabi said: “I don’t want to speak about Sharm. I have nothing to do with the decision. I want to get rid of the fixation.

“Once it comes back it will be fantastic. But until it comes back we have to promote our great product elsewhere. It’s not giving up [on Sharm as a UK destination], because it’s not our decision. What can I do other than promote what’s in my hands?”

A DfT spokeswoman confirmed there was no change in its immediate plans to resume flights to Sharm el Sheikh.

She said: “We continue to work closely with the Egyptian authorities on security arrangements at the airport. We keep aviation security under constant review and hope that we may be in a position to resume direct flights when the circumstances are right”.

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