Tragedy casts shadow over Blair's holiday destination

When Tony Blair brought his family on holiday to Egypt for a third consecutive year, it was a coup for the country's tourism industry.

The message was loud and clear: this Western-friendly Arab nation is safe for tourism - and fit for the likes of world leaders. Year-round temperate weather, beaches lined with palm trees and relatively untouched coral reefs make Sinai's seaside resorts a draw for tourists uninterested in the country's ancient temples or religious and cultural heritage.

Sharm el Sheikh, a strip of five-star hotels along the blue waters of Na'ama Bay, recycles European package tour groups so effectively that many visitors whisk in and out of this desert oasis without ever fully registering that they have visited the Middle East. At luxury hotels, women sunbathe topless - something that would be unthinkable elsewhere in Egypt - and young and trendy locals can escape the disapproval their partying might attract in more conservative areas.

But when an Egyptian charter plane carrying 135 mostly French passengers to Paris via Cairo crashed shortly after takeoff early yesterday, the shadow of terrorism hung over this quiet pocket of luxury on Egypt's Red Sea coast. The Aviation Minister, Ahmed Shafiq, was quick to suggest a technical failure, but since the authorities admitted contact with the doomed aircraft had been lost, some questioned whether he had any evidence to support the assertion. It appeared to show fear that the tourism industry, which has recovered from the 1997 Luxor massacre to become Egypt's main source of foreign currency, could once again be in jeopardy.

Any hint of terrorism would deal a critical blow to the $4.3bn (£2.4bn) that six million tourists bring in annually, more than revenues from oil and the Suez Canal. When Islamic militants attacked a temple in Luxor's famous Valley of the Queens a little over six years ago, killing 58 tourists, it seemed impossible for tourism to bounce back as quickly as it has. When Mr Blair first came here for a holiday in 2001, it was seen as an important factor in dispelling foreign fears of visiting Egypt.

It was too soon yesterday to assess the impact of the latest tragedy. Some 12 hours after the crash, Sharm el Sheikh's small and drab international airport was operating as usual. Planes continued to bring in fresh parties of visitors, while buses unloaded browned holidaymakers preparing to fly home. Few of the passengers thronging the terminal seemed aware there had been a disaster offshore, and appeared puzzled at the pack of journalists and photographers waiting for news.

A plane was due to arrive overnight with relatives of the victims, however, and Sharm el Sheikh's relative insulation from the horrors of the outside world was unlikely to last.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...