Russia is set to send to Egypt a trial flight carrying a team of experts to assess security measures, Russian state-affiliated Sputnik news agency reported.
According to the news agency, the spokesperson of the Russian State Duma’s committee on transportation said that the trial flight could lead to the resumption of flights between Egypt and Russia. However, the spokesperson did not announce when the trial flight is set to arrive at Cairo Airport.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Minister of Civil Aviation Sherif Fathy said at a press conference on Monday that a Russian delegation is set to visit Egypt on August 29 to check security measures at the Cairo, Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada airports.
A “number of delegations” will also visit Egypt to inspect security at resorts and hotels, Fathy said.
Russia halted all flights to Egypt following the downing of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai Peninsula last year. The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the explosion, saying it had planted a bomb onboard the plane.
Russia has sent several delegations this year to inspect Egypt’s security measures prior to the resumption of direct flights. However, while Russian officials have ceded that Egypt has taken “considerable measures” to improve flight security, they maintain that there are certain flaws that must be addressed before the ban is lifted.
The Russian plane crash has dealt a major blow to Egypt’s tourism industry, which is considered a cornerstone of the economy and a major earner of foreign currency. Prior to the crash, Russian tourists constituted one of the main groups of foreign visitors to Egypt’s vacation destinations along the Red Sea.
Egypt’s tourism revenues have taken a nosedive since the crash, however; according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), Russian tourist arrivals in June 2016 dropped year-on-year by 49.8 percent, while the number of tourists visiting from the United Kingdom and Germany dropped by 11.9 and 8.6 percent, respectively.
In late February, Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said tourism revenues had fallen by approximately USD 1.3 billion since the Russian plane crash.
The country’s tourism revenues dropped by 66 percent during the first quarter of the year in comparison to 2015, with total earnings amounting to just USD 500 million, down from last year’s USD 1.5 billion.
Despite Egypt’s dwindling tourism revenues, which have played a part in triggering the country’s ongoing foreign currency crisis, Egypt aims to attract 12 million tourists by the end of 2017 by way of implementing an ambitious six-point plan, which will include increasing the presence of the national airline EgyptAir abroad, cooperating with low-cost airlines and improving services.