Photo Credit: Israeli Tourism Ministry
Israeli Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen welcomes her Bahraini counterpart Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani to Israel, at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Dec. 1, 2020

Israel is reopening its gates to vaccinated tourists starting at the end of May and launching a strategic campaign to ensure as many tourists as possible arrive in 2021, Minister of Tourism Orit Farkash-Hacohen announced Tuesday at a news conference in Tel Aviv.

“Israel today is a world leader in safety and health, and we will make sure every potential tourist knows this when planning their summer or winter vacation,” Farkash-Hacohen said. ”We cannot miss this opportunity – and, as minister of tourism I won’t.”

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Tourism Campaign Focuses on 3 Global Cities
As part of its global campaign, Israel Ministry of Tourism will launch signs in three major cities, all of which combine the potential for inbound tourism and a high vaccination rate. The first sign will be aired in Dubai, in both English and Arabic, marking a historical step as it is the first time the Israeli government launches such a campaign in the United Arab Emirates.

Additional billboards will air in New York’s iconic Times Square and London’s famous Piccadilly Circus, each with a different design but all with a common message: book your flight to Israel.

“Dubai has great tourism potential for Israel,” the minister said, adding that “the UK and US have always been large markets for inbound tourism. I have no doubt we will see many tourists from all three countries within a short period of time.”

Additional steps taken by the Ministry of Tourism in preparation for the resumption of tourism in 2021 include the creation and promotion of a number of large international events, each geared at “keeping Israel in the hearts and minds” of strategic groups of tourists: a special Abraham Cycling Cup tour, in partnership with renowned philanthropist Sylvan Adams, which will see Israel and the UAE co-host the annual Tour of Dubai race; an international music festival in the stunning views of the Timna Park, and more.

Fiscal Support for Direct Flights to Eilat
Farkash-Hacohen also announced the ministry would reinstate a directive incentivizing foreign airlines to operate flights to the Ramon Airport located outside of Eilat.

The incentive, which was in place before the COVID pandemic and is now being budgeted at a cap of NIS 25 million, will enable foreign carriers to receive financial incentives for every tourist they bring to Israel.

“Ensuring inbound tourism to Eilat is my obligation to the city’s residents, but this is also a clear statement to the entire tourism industry: we are preparing for the resumption of tourism on a large scale as soon as possible,” the minister said.

‘Technical Details’ on Who is Actually Welcome
Speaking about the technical details, the Minister explained Israel would open to a limited number of vaccinated groups at the end of May, before allowing an unlimited number of groups to enter a month later. The plan, she explained, was that during July the skies would open to independent vaccinated travelers, without the need to come as part of a group.

“I know there is some criticism, and I can even agree with some of it,” Farkash-Hacohen said, stressing the plan wasn’t perfect but it was needed to ensure Israel maintained its position as a healthy country and not risk its citizens.

“We are gradually reopening tourism to Israel, to ensure we protect the health and wellbeing of all Israelis, while enabling those in the tourism sector to return to work and rebuild – and welcoming back the many people yearning to return.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.