Egypt Killings: Major travel firms cancel holiday flights

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The Independent Online
Tour operators gave a mixed response yesterday about how hard the terrorist attack in Luxor, which claimed the lives of 58 foreign visitors, would hit Egypt's tourist trade. Many flights have been cancelled over the next few days, but the impact in the long term is less clear.

British travel companies are offering clients due to travel to Egypt refunds or alternative holidays and several countries are considering whether to warn tourists against travelling there.

Egypt has become an increasingly popular holiday destination among Britons, with 350,000 travelling there last year. Until now, this year's tourist numbers had been buoyant, reaching 3.5 million - up from 3.2 million in 1996. However, three major British tour operators who arrange trips for a large share of these tourists have cancelled all holiday flights to the country over the next three days.

If the tourist figures dip in the longer term, the loss of revenue will be sorely felt. Egypt's tourist industry has an annual turnover of more than pounds 2bn, and up to 10 million people - almost one in six Egyptians - depend on foreign visitors for their livelihood.

Thomas Cook Holidays, Britain's largest tour operator, said it did not anticipate a huge decline in tourist interest in Egypt. Only two of its 140 clients currently in Egypt have decided to come home and only 50 of its 300 holidaymakers due to travel there before the end of the year have decided to cancel or transfer to another destination following Monday's tragedy.

The company is accepting cancellations and transfers without charge for all departures to Egypt until the end of the year. Its next scheduled departure for the country, a Nile Discovery tour leaving on Saturday, is going ahead for those who still wish to go, although the itinerary is being adapted to comply with Foreign Office advice to tourists to avoid the Luxor area.

Britain and the United States have issued emergency advice urging visitors to avoid areas along the Nile in upper Egypt, and Japan has followed suit.

An employee at the Shin Nihon Travel Company, a Japanese company which arranged tours to Egypt for approximately 3,000 tourists last year, said many clients had called in since the attack to cancel trips.

France's National Travel Agents' Union (SNAV) said in a statement that it recommended that members suspend sales of tours to Egypt "until further notice", and delay or shift to another holiday destination packages already sold.