Package holidays to Sharm el-Sheikh were back on sale hours after the flight ban to the Egyptian resort was lifted.
The Foreign Office changed its advice against all but essential travel by air to and from Sharm on Tuesday morning after four years – a move welcomed by the trade.
Egypt specialist Red Sea Holidays became the first to put the resort back on sale on Tuesday afternoon after sourcing weekly flights with Enter Air out of Gatwick from December 22. By 5.30pm, it had taken its first Sharm booking.
Sharm has been off limits to UK flights since a Russian-operated Metrojet flight was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 224 passengers, in October 2015.
According to the Egyptian State Tourist Office, British visitor numbers to Egypt hit a record high in 2010 with 1.3 million.
The advice change follows close co-operation between the UK and Egypt to improve airport security.
UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “We will now work closely with airlines which wish to resume flights to the airport.”
Operators immediately began discussions to source airlift for this winter. Thomas Cook, Tui and Red Sea Holidays were the biggest UK operators prior to the flight ban but, with Cook’s failure, other operators are expected to step in.
Tui said: “We will reintroduce Sharm el-Sheikh, taking into account customer demand, and will now work closely with our hotel and airport partners.”
EasyJet added it would look at “any opportunities” for its airline and tour operation as regards Sharm el-Sheikh.
Red Sea Holidays previously sent 100,000 passengers a year to Sharm. Executive director Peter Kearns said he would urge hoteliers in Sharm “not to be greedy”.
He said: “One of the great selling points of Sharm is that it’s great value. I’m sure they will respond with attractive pricing.”
The Egyptian State Tourist Office was confident UK visitor numbers would bounce back, and even exceed previous figures, given a recent rise in popularity for Hurghada and Marsa Alam.
UK director Amr El-Ezabi said: “It is great news. We now have three destinations for the British market.”
The tourist office is likely to launch an advertising campaign to promote Sharm at the turn of the year, he added.
Sherine Sennara, marketing director of Orascom Hotels Management, which has a string of hotels in Taba Heights and El Gouna in Egypt, said: “We are delighted with the FCO’s decision to lift the air ban to and from Sharm el-Sheikh.
“While we’ve seen an increase in airlift from UK carriers to Hurghada in recent years, which has hugely benefited tourism to the destination, the opportunity to welcome back visitors flying via Sharm will have a positive and welcome boost in holidaymakers to our resort town of Taba Heights, just 215km from the airport.
“Taba Heights was once an extremely popular holiday destination for British tourists, and with the flight ban being lifted, we’re confident that it will become as popular once again.”
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