Egypt stands to lose $280 mln a month from flight suspensions

A view shows an information board, with flights to the Egyptian resorts of Hurghada and Sharm al-Sheikh marked as cancelled, at Pulkovo airport outside St. Petersburg, Russia, November 7, 2015 REUTERS/Peter Kovalev

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt stands to lose 2.2 billion Egyptian pounds ($280 million) a month from Britain and Russia's decision to suspend flights after the Russian plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula, Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou said on Wednesday.

Britain stopped flights to Sharm al-Sheikh four days after the passenger plane crashed shortly after taking off on Oct. 31 from the Red Sea resort, pointing to the likelihood that it was brought down by a bomb. All 224 people on board were killed.

Several European countries followed, and Russia later suspended flights to all Egyptian airports.

Zaazou said Russian and British holidaymakers accounted for two-thirds of tourist traffic to Sharm al-Sheikh, while Russians alone made up half the tourists in Egypt's other main Red Sea destination, Hurghada.

Citing what he described as the negative impact of Western media coverage of the plane crash, Zaazou said he planned a $5 million public relations campaign to promote Egypt in Britain and Russia.

A senior Russian official has said that Moscow's decision to suspend flights is unlikely to be reversed soon.

"It’s for a long time. For how long - I cannot really say, but I think that for several months, minimum," Sergei Ivanov, the head of the presidential administration, was quoted as saying by RIA news agency on Tuesday.

Ivanov said security needed to be improved not only in Sharm al-Sheikh but also in Hurghada and Cairo - "in those places where Russian planes fly."

Zaazou said the government would seek to make up for the loss of international business by encouraging domestic tourism, as well as encouraging Gulf Arab visitors and easing visa requirements for tourists from North Africa.

($1 = 7.8300 Egyptian pounds)

(Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly in Moscow; Writing by Dominic Evans; editing by Ralph Boulton)