Four years after the ban on direct flights from Britain to Egypt’s premier holiday resort was imposed, the UK government now says air links can resume.
In his first interview since the announcement, the Egyptian ambassador to London told The Independent: “It has been damaging.”
The ban took effect early in November 2015, at the start of a winter season that was expected to see 500,000 British holidaymakers in the string of resorts on the southeast flank of the Sinai peninsula.
Since the ban, Egypt has lost an estimated two million visits from UK tourists. While some have switched to other resorts on the Red Sea, notably Hurghada, there are far fewer holiday flights to Egypt than there were up to 2015.
Tarek Adel, the ambassador, said: “I personally know of many businesses in Sharm el Sheikh that went out of business.
“We have been working on the resumption of flights to Sharm el Sheikh ever since the embargo started in 2015.”
With some diplomatic understatement, he said of the lifting of the prohibition: “It has taken a very long time.”
There has been fury in the Egyptian tourist industry and the government in Cairo about how long the ban has been in place.
After 30 British holidaymakers were massacred at the Tunisian resort of Sousse in June 2015, the Foreign Office ban was lifted after two years.
Mainstream package holidays to Tunisia did not resume for a further seven months; Thomas Cook resumed flights to the North African country in February 2018.
A leading travel industry figure, Tim Jeans – former managing director of Monarch – believes flights could return more swiftly to Sharm el Sheikh.
”Sharm will be a great opportunity for easyJet,” he said.
“They served it before and with their own holiday product plus the online players such as On the Beach, who had need their seats, they could easily get going by February half term.
“It might be a possibility for Tui as their aircraft are fairly lightly used during the winter, and there’s bound to be some excellent deals on beds in the resort.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jet2 have a go as again, beds will be readily available and they have plenty of midweek downtime on their fleet.”
Since the flight ban began, tens of thousands of British travellers have been flying to Sharm el Sheikh by other means – typically via Cairo or Istanbul – but journeys have been long and expensive.