The German Ministry of Transport has decided to recommence direct flights from Germany to the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh, after removing a ban on checked luggage to the town’s airport, the Egyptian foreign ministry announced on Wednesday.
The ban on flights had been in place since November 2015 and was implemented in response to the downing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula in late October, for which the Islamic State group subsequently claimed responsibility.
“To clarify, [removing the ban] does not mean that flights will automatically resume to Sharm El-Sheikh. Whether flights resume or not depends on the interest of German travel companies and tourists to come to Sharm El-Sheikh. The decision to allow travelers to take their luggage with them in the same flight out of Sharm El-Sheikh may lead to an increased interest to resume flights,” head of the German Information Center Dr. Michael Reuss told Egyptian Streets via email.
The decision to lift the ban on checked luggage comes after “the Federal Aviation Office officially informed all German tour operators with the said decision in preparation for flight resumption to and from Sharm El-Sheikh Airport,” the statement from Egypt’s foreign ministry reads.
In the past six months, the Egyptian Embassy in Berlin, in coordination with relevant state bodies in both countries, including the ministries of interior, tourism and civil aviation, has made efforts to see flights resume to the tourist resort, said the statement.
The Egyptian ambassador to Germany Badr Abdel Atty pointed out that the resumption of flights came after inspections were carried out by German aviation experts on the airport in Sharm El-Sheikh to ensure that security standards were met.
“The decision came in implementation of the recommendation submitted by a German delegation of aviation experts that inspected security airport measures at Sharm El-Sheikh Airport,” he was quoted as saying.
The ambassador also stated that the move reflects Egypt’s “compliance to international airport security standards,” adding that it “highlights that Germany is keen to push forward cooperation on airport security and open the door to the recovery of the tourism sector in Sharm El-Sheikh and Egyptian tourism generally.”
Following the downing of the Russian passenger plane in October 2015 that killed all 224 passengers onboard Egypt’s tourism industry, a pillar of the economy and a critical source of foreign currency, has been hard hit.
Germany, Russia, Britain and Turkey all imposed travel bans to Sharm El-Sheikh in response to the deadly crash.
In the first quarter of 2016, Egypt’s tourism revenues declined by 66 percent compared to last year, with total earnings amounting to just USD 500 million, down from last year’s USD 1.5 billion.
Newly released statistics from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) revealed that the number of tourists visiting Egypt in March 2016 has dropped by as much as 47.2 percent in comparison to the same month last year.
Despite the drop in overall tourist arrivals, the report indicated that the largest number of tourists to visit Egypt in March were Germans. According to the foreign ministry’s statement, approximately 170,000 German tourists visited Egypt during the first three months of 2016, with Hurghada and Marsa Alam being the two most popular destinations for the incoming Germans.
The tourism sector, Egypt’s second largest source of national income after revenues from the Suez Canal, provides direct and indirect employment to approximately 12.6 percent of the country’s workforce.