Russians and Ukrainians stuck in Turkish and Egyptian resorts

Thousands of Ukrainians and Russians remain in the resorts of Egypt – some cannot leave, others are waiting out the crisis and the war. How do they get along?

The Internet is replete with descriptions of showdowns and mass fights between representatives of the two warring countries. Egyptian hotel personnel have a hard time – they are trying to somehow separate them in order to avoid crossing if possible. Edition “The country” tried to find out the details.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, hoteliers in Egypt received an official order from the head of tourism and hotels in South Sinai, Ahmed Al-Sheikh:

“Be careful if Russian and Ukrainian tourists are together in the same hotel, and it is advisable to settle them further away.”

Ahmed Al-Sheikh speaks of Egypt’s readiness to receive and accommodate tourists, both Russian and Ukrainian, who cannot fly due to air traffic problems, and calls on hoteliers to “receive and accommodate well” them. But also take care of the safety of tourists and others.

The New York Times tells how in one 5-star hotel in Sharm El Sheikh, staff persuaded tourists from Ukraine and Russia to eat at different restaurants in order to eliminate the possibility of conflict. But it is not always possible to successfully avoid active confrontation. Local tour operators talk about the ongoing fights. For example, in one of the hotels there was an unequal “battle” – a Russian got into a fight with a Ukrainian, and they had to be urgently settled in different hotels.

However, such incidents, fortunately, can be called isolated. Egyptian hoteliers report “tense environment without physical assault”. The manager of a 5-star hotel in Egypt says:

“If incidents do happen, it’s mostly between tipsy tourists. And so Ukrainians and Russians try to either ignore each other, or simply not engage in discussions. They calmly eat together in restaurants. Although some swear towards each other, they do without skirmishes.”

And Ashraf Sherif, a sales manager for the Red Sea Hotels chain in Sharm and Hurghada, noticed that even after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, bars and clubs remain crowded. True, visitors are located unusually: on the one hand, Russians are dancing, on the other, Ukrainians, who were forced to stay on vacation.

According to official figures from the Ukrainian embassy in Egypt, at the time of the invasion, on February 24, approximately 11,000 Ukrainians were in Sharm and 9,000 in Hurghada. Since then, thanks to the organization of evacuation flights to Europe by Egypt, this number has decreased. The number of Russians stuck in Egypt is in the tens of thousands (according to unofficial data).

The local government has ordered hotels on the Red Sea to extend Ukrainian stays for free, and expensive resorts to offer special rates or transfers to cheaper accommodation. Hotels hit hard during the pandemic took such an order without enthusiasm – the promised compensation from the government is only $ 10 per Ukrainian guest per night. Ashraf Sherif says:

“If you talk to the Egyptians, you will see that they are sadder than the Ukrainians themselves. Because in this city there is only tourism.”

Russian tourists in Sharm have said they are dependent on their tour operators for payment – direct flights to Russia have been suspended and travellers’ credit cards have ceased to work.

Some tourists, both from Russia and Ukraine, want to stay and wait out the hard times in Egypt. Mike, 30, who works for a Moscow pharmaceutical company, tells the New York Times:

“At resorts all over Sharm, guests can find menus, signs and events in Russian, which is also spoken by many Ukrainians. TVs in the rooms are mainly Russian and Ukrainian channels. Two weeks ago, united by language, culture and history, representatives of two nationalities rested in harmony.Ukrainian channels then began to show Russian troops destroying cities in Ukraine and shelling fleeing civilians, and Russian channels began to claim that there was no war at all.There are Russians who do not believe the Kremlin-backed propaganda they see on state television. A group of Ukrainian tourists I met at the table tennis tables took out their phones to show pictures of the massacre. I didn’t say anything. I had no words to explain it. I just hugged them.”

How about in Turkey? They are preparing for the opening of the season, taking into account new circumstances. An employee of the tour operator from Antalya Serkan Tunca says:

“The hotels are strengthening security, and then they will look at the situation. If it is very tense, they will try to seat Ukrainians and Russians in different halls of the restaurant. But in practice, it is not easy to separate guests. Restaurants, beaches, animation are common recreation areas, and who will monitor behind the separation, it is not clear. One can only hope that there will be no fights. Before the war, Ukrainians and Russians got along peacefully, even sang karaoke together, went on excursions together. Now the guides will try not to put them on the same bus. An increase in demand for ” hotels without Russians” (such an option for Ukrainian tourists appeared a couple of years ago)”.

In Antalya, where a significant number of Russians and Ukrainians with residence permits live year-round, an incident has already occurred – in a local park in the Konyalti region, matryoshka dolls were doused with red paint, staging blood from the mouth (they appeared in the park about two years ago, in honor of Russian-Turkish friendship). Matryoshkas were washed, and the authorities threatened with deportation for inciting ethnic hatred.

However, carefully thought-out preventive measures may not be needed this year. Turkish experts predict the cancellation of bookings: the Russians will not be able to come because of the rise in price of tours in rubles due to the devaluation and sanctions that have hit air carriers, and the Ukrainians will not have time to rest because of the war, lack of money and the suspension of air traffic.

Last year, about 5 million Russians and more than a million Ukrainians vacationed in Turkey. Pinebeach General Manager Anna Yigit notes:

“Last year, 9 million tourists came to Antalya. 57% of them are from the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian markets. We predict that the impact of this crisis on tourism in Antalya will be very serious.”

The forecasts of the Turkish authorities, who hoped for the return of dock-like profits in tourism, are pessimistic. Experts say that this year we should not expect a recovery in demand for holidays in Turkey. There remains, however, hope for tourists from Europe, but there are much fewer of them than from Russia and Ukraine. President of All Restaurants and Tourism Association Ramazan Bingol says:

“Let’s forget about the markets of Russia and Ukraine: I hope I’m wrong, but unfortunately, it is clear that this situation will develop for the worse. The Ukrainians are suffering a lot of destruction, the Russians are also going through hard economic times.”

And Ertan Ustaoglu, President of the Association of Small Hoteliers, predicts:

“We will not see the movement of tourists until October-November. The Russian market will depend on the state of the economy and the purchasing power of the population.”

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