Israeli tourism hard hit by coronavirus closures optimistically awaits recovery | JNS

For two years now, since the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic, hotels in Israel have seen dramatic drops in stays by inbound tourists; tour guides have lost most, if not all, of their belongings; and restaurants and other business owners who rely heavily on visitor traffic have suffered catastrophic and often irreversible damage, many of which have been forced to close. The question that worries everyone is: when will tourism to Israel resume?

Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahum told JNS that the tourism industry has been hit the hardest by COVID-19 and the associated closures and restrictions.

“For Israel, it has been completely devastating,” she said.

Even though Israel now allows tourists, “people are still careful,” she added; “It will be a few years” before Israel returns to pre-coronavirus figures, which in 2019 stood at 4.5 million tourists. At the time, it seemed likely that 2020 would be the year to break a new record with 5 million tourists.

Nonetheless, Hassan-Nahum said she remains optimistic about the future and hopes the coming year will be successful in terms of a rebound in tourism to Israel.

She also said she believed it would be “the year of Gulf tourism to Israel by first-time Muslim pilgrims,” ​​adding that she expects at least 200,000 tourists from the Gulf and neighboring areas.

On January 6, Israel announced that it would remove its “red list” of countries and reopen the skies to inbound and outbound travelers, including foreign tourists, who must either be vaccinated or picked up. This return to the freedom to fly, however, always includes the need to undergo a pre-flight PCR test, before returning to Israel, and then again immediately after landing in Israel. Tourists must then self-quarantine for 24 hours upon arrival in Israel or until they receive a negative test result.

For weeks, the public demanded the lifting of the flight restrictions and lobbied politicians to help them.

“The impact of high technology has reduced overall damage”

Earlier this month, Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai and Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov demanded that the government reopen the skies of Israel to international visitors and tourists. Shai said the closures “sever ties with Jews in the diaspora,” while Razvozov said tourists cannot visit Israel due to coronavirus rules which “have no medical value.”

For now, the public seems to have granted their wish, but it is not known how long it will last. Tourists are always afraid to arrive in large numbers because there is no way to predict what the restrictions will look like in a week, and it is impossible to plan such trips with such little confidence. For this reason, it is impossible to know when tourism to Israel will rebound since the skies can close overnight.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Health website, as of January 11, 185,753 people across the country have tested positive with 247 critically ill.

With these ever-changing numbers, tourists are still worried about traveling to Israel, and the Israeli government is concerned about the massive flow of foreigners entering the country at a time when the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is still doing. rage.

Dan Ben-David, who heads the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research and is also an economist at Tel Aviv University, told JNS that on average, the effect of the pandemic on Israel “has been considerably less. than in other developed countries ”.

“Israel has weathered this relatively well on average in terms of GDP, which is higher than it was before COVID two years ago,” he said. “In most OECD countries, the recovery is not complete.

“We also have literally the strongest currency in the developed world and one of the lowest inflation rates,” he added. “Israel is doing pretty well.

“But it’s a bit misleading,” he said. “The problem is, Israel is a very divided country” when it comes to the economy. “There are really two Israelis in one.

Ben-David pointed out that while the high-tech part of Israel, which represents around 10% of the workforce, has weathered the pandemic very well, “a large majority of Israelis are not in the upper echelons. technology. “

In fact, large numbers of people in Israel are very low-skilled, which means that the service industry and other low-wage industries have been among the hardest hit, he said.

“High technology in general in the developed world has been less affected than other sectors, and since Israel is much more dependent on high technology, this impact has helped reduce the overall damage,” he said.

According to the Tourism Ministry in a statement to JNS, “The corona pandemic has decimated Israel’s tourism industry with the abrupt shutdown of all inbound tourism in March 2020, after a period of steady increasing growth. 2019 was a banner year for inbound tourism to Israel, with revenues of NIS 23 billion [$17.4 billion]. Inbound tourism has plunged to just 832,500 tourist entries in 2020 and 401,500 in 2021 (with revenues of around NIS 2 billion, or $ 641 billion).

The ministry said it had “worked throughout the pandemic to ensure that awareness of Israel as a safe and attractive tourist destination remains high.”

While it is impossible to discuss the forecast for 2022, given the unpredictability of the pandemic, the ministry said it “remains optimistic and is ready to welcome tourists to Israel again to take advantage of its sights, various historical, religious and cultural “.

Taking advantage of the two-year period without tourists, Israel repaired infrastructure and even built new hotels, as well as modernized tourist sites.

With his usual enthusiasm, Hassan-Nahum reiterated his hopes for a better tourism year, declaring: “Israel is ready and the hotels are eager to leave.

Post-Israel tourism, hit hard by coronavirus shutdowns, hopefully awaiting recovery appeared first on JNS.org.

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