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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy