© AFP/File | A tourist poses on a camel at the beach in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on November 3, 2015
MOSCOW (AFP) -
Nearly 80,000 Russians are currently vacationing in Egypt but there will be no emergency evacuation, with tourists set to return home when they want, an official told AFP.
"Nearly 80,000 tourists are in Egypt," Irina Tyurina, a spokeswoman for the Russian Union of the Tourism Industry, told AFP after a government meeting.
"There will be no evacuation," she said, adding that most were staying in Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada.
Russia halted flights to Egypt on Friday amid growing fears that a Russian jet downed last weekend over the Sinai peninsula with 224 people on board was bombed.
Empty planes are being sent to Egypt to bring Russian holidaymakers home, but they will be able to return at their own pace, official said.
"Tourists will be returning from Egypt to Russia when they planned to," said Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, who is in a charge of a task force established to oversee the return of tourists.
"Most people left for two weeks -- our usual holiday tour lasts two weeks -- therefore they will return in about two weeks," he said in televised comments late Friday.
Russia followed in Britain's footsteps, saying that holidaymakers will be returning home without their hold luggage, which will be brought back to the country separately.
The emergencies ministry will later Saturday be sending two planes, one to Hurghada and another one to Sharm el-Sheikh, to pick up tourists' luggage, a spokeswoman, Tatyana Zholobova, told AFP.
The number of Russian tourists travelling abroad has gone down significantly due to a plunge in the value of the ruble on the back of falling oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
But affordable destinations such as Egypt are still popular with Russian holidaymakers, especially during school holidays.
Russians, who have bought tour packages to Egypt, are now offered to travel to Turkey instead, tourism officials said.
"A tour operator is right now offering to fly to Turkey under the same conditions which were stipulated in a holiday package for Egypt," one tourist, Andrei Kuznetsov, said in televised remarks.