After finally opening nearly 100% of the country to its own citizens, Israel is now gearing up to be – in its words – the first country to open up its tourism sector, beginning on May 23 – 14 months after its borders were closed.
“We are happy to be the first country to restart tourism,” said Yossi Fatael, general manager of the Incoming Tour Operators Association, during an online conference last week.
On Thursday, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism sponsored a webinar called “Israel Where Else?” as part of their larger convention, the annual International Mediterranean Tourism Market 2021, this year being held online.
The segment featured officials – from Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen to former coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu – all of whom stressed the safety that incoming travelers can expect, beginning with a near fully vaccinated country and special COVID protocols.
The slick preview included a review of all the country has to offer from street food to what tourists can expect when Israel reopens to tourism again.
However, to enjoy these sites and the beauty of the Holy Land, tourists must be vaccinated, present a negative COVID test and undergo a serological test for antibodies after they arrive in Israel.
Upon arrival, visitors can download the green passport app to their phones and use it for access to locations that are off limits to non-vaccinated Israelis such as restaurants, hotels and other indoor venues.
Though the panelists did not detail exactly which safety protocols will be put in place to maintain the tourists’ health while they are here, they said that only trained agents will be working directly with them.
“We have protocols from the moment you are stepping down from the plane… each and every step during your visit is under a special protocol to preserve your health and security,” Fatael said. “Our members of the Israeli Incoming Tour Operators Association are well prepared. Only agents who went through our seminars are able to be involved.”
Because of the vaccines, Israel has “earned it.” The webinar presenters stressed that entry will be, at least at this point, for the vaccinated only, and they promoted the "green passport."
Gamzu reassured potential visitors that Israel is a safe place to come visit.
“We are back to living our lives, we are shaking hands, we are hugging, we are kissing. This is the message to anyone who wants to visit Israel,” he said. “We put our trust in vaccines and Israelis have gone through a few months of getting vaccines to all who are of the ages to get the vaccine, and special permits, and we reached 90%,” so this created a safe environment, a safe country.
He also noted that Israel passed through two non-restricted holidays – Passover and Independence Day – with no recurring outbreaks of COVID two weeks later. In fact, Israel has the lowest reported cases in the world right now, he said.
The panel also focused a good deal on off-the-beaten-path sites in southern Israel including “glamping” in the Negev Desert, hiking trails and a new international airport near Eilat with flights arriving from most European destinations.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS