COVID immunity gives new hope for Israeli tourism

Israel is considered to have conducted the world’s most successful vaccination campaign to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has now reached full immunity against the virus and is ready to open up to international travellers.

By the end of March, Israel had already vaccinated over 80% of its total population of over nine million inhabitants. The immunity target has already been reached and Israel is now working on a third vaccination jab to strengthen its population immunity.

Safety for Israeli locals means restrictions have already been lifted for domestic travel. The country’s travel industry is now preparing to welcome back international travellers from the third quarter, and experts at the Israeli Ministry of Tourism believe that 2022 will see a real tourism boom.

2021 will thus certainly mark a turning point after a devastating year 2020. After receiving 4.55 million international visitors in 2019 (including 0.44 million arrivals from Asia), numbers for the period January-September 2020 point to a decline of 76% in total arrivals. Israel received, during that time, only 780,000 visitors compared to 3.3 million a year before.

Population’s full immunity and Gulf tourism to stimulate demand

In addition to Israel’s benefit of being a safe place to visit, a major stimulus will be the normalisation of relations with countries in the Gulf region. First flights between Israel and the UAE were launched, which will, in return, favour the visit of Gulf travellers to Israel.

The 2020 pandemic and the complete halt of all tourism activities were also an opportunity for Israel’s Ministry of Tourism to rethink many aspects, and try to rebuild tourism in a smarter way. In the past, tourism activities in Israel were too often associated with over-tourism, with the phenomenon of overcrowded holiday areas being particularly perceptible in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and along large resort towns along the Red Sea such as Eilat.

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism has worked hard to shift tourism focus and encourage visitors to go on the discovery of the country’s hidden gems, helping spread the benefits of tourism beyond traditional destinations and taking pressure off popular places such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The government has pushed for the development of new infrastructure outside main sites with a focus on inclusive facilities. Israel is now one of the first countries in the world having made the provision of accessible rooms for disabled people compulsory in all of the country’s hotels.