What happened with tourism in Israel during corona outbreak?
2019 turned out to be the best year of tourism ever for Israel: a record-breaking number of 4.55 mln tourists visited the country. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 356,000 foreign visitors came to Israel in June 2019. In June 2020, this number plummeted to 5800 due to coronavirus.
Israeli tourism has already declined by 60%. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warns that this ratio might reach 80% in December if the pandemic won’t be over.
So far, the touristic sector had to face the following losses and challenges because of COVID-19:
- All 120 members of the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association had to either lay off dozens of employees or send them on leave of absence.
- Around 250,000 hotel workers and up to 5000 private tour guides hope the government could offer them temporary jobs, such as school teachers or public office clerks.
- El Al, the flagship air carrier, announced plans to place 4000 of its employees on unpaid leave, including 600 pilots out of 650, plus lay off 1000 workers.
According to the Israel Hotel Association, the total annual losses for the tourism industry might reach up to NIS 4.2 bln ($1.16 bln).
Encouraging domestic tourism
In June 2019, 837,000 Israelis traveled abroad. In 2020, this number shrank to 16,000. To motivate the citizens to travel domestically, the Ministry of Tourism ran an advertising campaign on a budget of NIS 2 mln ($585,000).
Tel Aviv municipality offered numerous perks to domestic visitors, such as free tours, free bicycle rent, two tickets to attractions for the price of one. The organizers of group tours declare a lack of demand for their services because people prefer individual trips for the fear of contracting coronavirus.
Among all the Israeli resorts, only Eilat is doing fairly well, some hotels are reported to be full. The occupancy rate of Jerusalem hotels is marginal, just around 25%. In Nazareth, 60% of the hotels had to temporarily close. Normally, international tourists would count for around 50% of the hotels’ occupancy.
Hopes for revival
The country might open its borders for international tourists on August 16. Those who enter Israel from the “green states” won’t need to take a corona test or spend 14 days in isolation — while those coming from elsewhere will. According to optimistic forecasts, the Israeli touristic industry might be able to recover in three years.