U.S. intelligence reports that the crash of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula was most likely caused by a bomb have shocked the international community and raised fresh concerns regarding security and tourism to the region. With Egypt high on the list of Czech popular tourist destinations many holiday-makers awaited the Czech Foreign Ministry’s recommendations.
As Czech newscasters reported on Britain’s decision to suspend all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, dozens of tourists lined up at Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport ready to board a scheduled holiday flight to Egypt. Although most had heard the speculation that the Russian plane crash may have been the work of terrorists, no one asked to have their holiday cancelled.
Egypt is the 6th most popular tourist destination for Czechs traveling abroad with on average 185,000 holiday makers heading there every year. According to the Czech Association of Travel Agencies there are presently around 2,000 Czechs on holiday in Egypt, but none of them in Sharm el-Sheikh. Kateřina Petříčkova of the Czech Association of Travel Agencies told Czech television the agency is closely monitoring events and ready to respond to developments.
“Although Czech travel agencies have been “on alert” since the news broke, we have not registered any cancellations. The British government has suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, but Czech travel agencies stopped flying tourists to this holiday resort in November and will not be doing so for the entire winter season. So a possible ban would have no direct impact on booked holidays.”
Meanwhile, the Czech Foreign Ministry met on Thursday morning to review the situation in light of the latest developments. Spokesperson Ivana Valentová sums up its recommendations.
“The Czech Republic will not be upgrading its travel advice for Egypt at this point. This policy is in line with that of most European states, apart from Britain and Ireland. Our warning against individual trips to the Sinai Peninsula remains valid and as regards package holidays we do not recommend leaving the given tourist resort. We advise heightened caution and have issued a recommendation against all trips to northern Sinai including the tourist resort Taba.”
The Foreign Ministry says it is keeping the situation under constant review and will revise its stand in the event of any change. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec likewise assured the public on Thursday that he had no information regarding a direct security threat to the country and said that any change would most likely involve a revised travel recommendation for Czechs rather than increased security which was adequate to the present situation.
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