The Tourism Ministry decided last Thursday to exempt the Russian tourists from paying the US$25 Egyptian visa in order to promote Russian tourism after being hit by the sharp drop of the Russian Ruble, which fell to 7.9 versus the US Dollar.
According to the ministry, the exemption will be effective from 15 January until 30 April 2015.
Russia started to be a pivotal source of Egypt’s foreign tourism since 2010, and the number of Russian tourists increased reaching 3 million in 2014 representing almost 65 percent of the total number of tourists according to state information service. Moreover, Egypt ranked first in the countries visited by the Russian tourists in 2014.
Two days ago, Tourism Minister Heham Zazou said that the ministry had submitted a proposal to the government for using the Russian ruble to repay tourist services provided to tour operators and travel agencies in exchange Egypt can import Russian products which known as "barter system.”
Egypt relies on Russia for its large wheat and natural gas imports with an approxiamte LE3.9-billion trade exchange in 2014.
“Since November 2014 the Russian tourists flow in the Red sea cities plunged 50-60 percent due to the decrease of Russian Ruble against the US Dollar; however it was the high session of Christmas and New Year celebrations,” said Yasser Mehaisan manger of the Tourism Ministry bureau in the Red Sea governorate.
Mehaisan said that many reservations were cancelled because after the ruble dropped the trip to Egypt became three times more expensive than before, pointing out that the average trip price of the Russian tourist to Egypt including the airline tickets was usually $700.
He affirmed that tourism was not affected by the travel ban by some countries, but it was harmed by the exaggerations by the Egyptian media especially with the news of explosions and terrorism. “I don’t say media should not tell the truth, but they should not to intimidate tourists,” he said.
However, tourism experts say Russian tourists tend to be more thrifty, as they shell out less money during their trip, but Mehaisan believes that they are still a source of income to pay Egyptian workers’ wages. “Russian tourists are better than nothing,” he said.
According to the last indices published by the Egyptian government the tourism sector revenues contribute about 11.3 percent of GDP and 14.4 percent of Egypt's foreign exchange earnings.
“We don’t have any current campaigns to attract the European and American tourists, because they won’t come to Egypt and they watch Egyptian media saying the country is full of terrorists,” Mehaisan said.