Thomas Cook scraps Sharm al-Sheikh holidays over terror fears
Thomas Cook will not run its holiday service to the popular Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh this winter or next summer over fears of terrorist attacks - in the latest blow to Egypt's ailing tourism industry.
The leading British tour operator said on Wednesday that its holiday bookings to the South Sinai resort had been scrapped because the British government continues to advise against air travel to the city.
"We have no plans to reintroduce a programme to Sharm until after that advice changes," the tour operator said in a statement.
"The five flights per week which we had scheduled this winter have now been cancelled," it said.
The statement added that the tour operator was planning on increasing flights to Hurghada and introducing flights to Marsa Alam - both popular Red Sea resort towns on the Egyptian mainland.
The British government advises against all but essential air travel to or from Sharm al-Sheikh airport, citing "a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation".
In October 2015, the Islamic State group claimed the bombing of a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from Sharm al-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.
Britain suspended flights to the city in the far south of the Sinai peninsula in the wake of the attack and Russia halted all flights to Egypt.
More than 60 percent of tourists arriving in Sharm al-Sheikh by plane previously came from the UK or Russia.
Egypt is currently battling an extremist insurgency in the nearby North Sinai province that has killed hundreds of policemen and troops since the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohammad Morsi.
Once a key foreign currency earner, the Egyptian tourism sector crashed in 2011 after a popular uprising overthrew veteran leader Hosni Mubarak, ushering in years of sporadic unrest.
Industry officials have cautiously welcomed what they have said has been a slight improvement in the tourism sector since October last year.
In December 2016, 551,600 tourists visited Egypt compared with 440,000 the year before, according to the government's statistics agency.
Egypt hosted a record 14.7 million foreign tourists in 2010, a year before Mubarak's overthrow and the ensuing economic nosedive.
Last month, Egypt's tourism minister warned a 'tenfold of effort' was needed to save the country's once-booming tourism industry.