Last updated: 02:30 PM ET, Wed December 23 2015

Egypt Hires Experts to Audit Airport Security

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | December 23, 2015

Egypt Hires Experts to Audit Airport Security

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Egypt has been trying to convince airlines and foreign governments that it is safe after the crash (and alleged bombing) of a Russian Metrojet plane earlier this year. Russia has stopped flights into the country and the U.K. has banned its commercial carriers from flying to the Sinai Peninsula. 

Trying to overcome setbacks

Egypt desperately wants to get its tourism industry back on track. Things were starting to look up earlier this year after several years of unrest. The industry hasn’t had a strong year since before the 2011 protests in Cairo, when it was earning more than $12 billion per year.  New hotel openings and an increasing number of arrivals gave the North African country a reason to hope in early 2015.

The Metrojet disaster changed that. Egypt claims that its investigators did not find enough evidence to prove that a bomb took down the Russian airliner. Russia, however, said that its own investigation proved that an explosive device caused the crash.

Now, Egypt wants to prove that it is once again safe for tourists. The country has been working with the U.K.’s Foreign Office to increase security to a level that would lead London to lift its ban on travel to the Sinai (particularly the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh).  

Reviewing airport security

Now, Egypt has announced that it is hiring a third-party firm to audit its new security measures at its airports. The hope is that having a greater amount of transparency will speed up the process that could lead to the U.K. and Russia lifting their bans.   

Global security consultancy Control Risks will carry out the audit. Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou made it very clear that hiring the firm was meant to show that Egypt is now taking security very seriously and wants to act as transparently as possible going forward. Zaazou told Reuters: "Today is a demonstration of the messages we are sending the whole world that we are taking very bold steps to ensure the welfare, safety, and security of both Egyptians and our guests." 

Security experts helping Egypt improve its safety 

Control Risks, which is based in the U.K., will focus on the security at airports in Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh. The company’s experts will also assess the current security at other airports around the country. Control Risks has a great deal of experience with the specific security threats in the Middle East and North Africa. They have offices in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.  

The audit should take about two or three months to complete. It seems most likely that planes from the U.K. will be flying to Sharm el-Sheikh long before Russian airlines re-launch their service to the tourist town. It is not clear if the UK’s Foreign Office will wait for the review of Egypt’s airports to be complete before allowing British airlines to restart service to Sharm el-Sheikh. 

Things might not progress as quickly as they would like, but Egyptian authorities are obviously taking steps that will eventually lead to a reopening of Sharm el-Sheikh and, ideally, a return to the days before 2011 when the country was enjoying a great deal of tourism success. 

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