The Media Line led over twenty years ago in pioneering the American independent news agency in the Middle East, arguably the first in the region. We have always stayed true to our mission: to provide you with contextual sourced and trustworthy news. In an age of fake news masquerading as journalism, The Media Line plays a crucial role in providing fact-based news that deserves your support.

We're proud of the dozens of young students we've trained in our Press and Policy Student Program who will form the vanguard of the next generation of journalists to the benefit of countless millions of news readers.

Look out for exciting new additions as we enter 2022.

We thank our loyal readers and wish you all the happiest of holidays.
The Media Line

Non-profit news needs public support.
Please support us with your generous contributions:
Israel’s Tourism Sector Getting Ready for Opening Day

Israel’s Tourism Sector Getting Ready for Opening Day

Welcome mat ready for visitors, vaccinated or not, starting March 1

As Israel’s omicron-fueled fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic nears its end, the government has announced the lifting of travel bans. The tourism sector is eagerly preparing for the return of foreign visitors after two years of lockdowns and closed skies.

Beginning on March 1 vaccinated and unvaccinated foreigners will be allowed into the country, with the only requirement being two negative PCR tests, pre- and post-flight. It will be the first time unvaccinated visitors are allowed entry since March 2020.

Returning Israeli citizens need only be tested upon arrival and need not quarantine – even if they are unvaccinated – if their PCR tests are negative.

“We are seeing a steady decline in the morbidity data; therefore, this is the time to gradually open what we were the first in the world to close,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday after a meeting with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov.

“At the moment, the situation in Israel is good…. At the same time, we will continue to closely monitor the situation and in the event of a new variant, we will again act quickly,” Bennett added.

Kobby Barda, deputy director-general of the Ministry of Tourism, told The Media Line the ministry is launching a series of campaigns primarily targeting the five countries where most of Israel’s visitors come from: the US, UK, France, Italy, and Russia.

He added that there is already high demand from people who wish to visit Israel as soon as possible.

“We are hearing from our 20 offices around the world that there is a tremendous will to come to Israel, especially after the lifting of the travel bans. We are preparing for many people to come,” he said.

The ministry is optimistic, Barda said. “The sense is that the coming months are looking very good for Israeli tourism.

“In March-April there is Passover and Easter, in May-June, we have [Tel Aviv] Fashion Week and the [city’s] Gay Pride Parade for which we are launching a special campaign directed to the LGBTQ community, and then we have the summer,” he said.

Barda added that after the many challenges posed to the sector by the pandemic, the government has been taking measures to help it survive and be prepared to reopen.

“The government has supplied the main key players of the industry with substantial funds so that they will be able to keep their head over the water,” he said. “We have provided 150 million shekels [about $46 million] to be distributed to the hotel industry, 60 million shekels for tourist operators, and 25 million for tour guides.”

Barda also pointed out another problem the industry is facing, the lack of human capital in many tourism-related jobs.

Aviv Jasman, founder and CEO of the Israel Unlimited luxury travel agency, discussed that challenge.

“It’s hard to get employees because, during the pandemic, a lot of the good employees left the tourism industry for other fields. Now there are not too many experienced employees in tourism. So we are looking for people who are smart and we will shape them to work in tourism the way we think it should be,” Jasman The Media Line.

Barda sees another cause for the sector’s manpower shortage. “It was a very tough and demanding time; many people were laid off from their jobs in the industry, and some won’t come back because they found something else, or they just don’t want to.”

He cited a phenomenon that no one fully understands so far, known internationally as the “Big Quit” or “Great Resignation.”

“After the coronavirus, many people decided that they don’t want to return to work in jobs that they did before. It’s a phenomenon that mainly affects the “younger generation positions,” meaning waitresses and bartenders, restaurants, and hotel workers, so it’s a challenge,” he added.

The Israeli government is looking at different ways to address the problem, he said.

In Eilat, for instance, “We came to an agreement with Jordan that every day 1,500 [Jordanians] are going to cross the border to work in Israel, and then at night, they go back to Jordan. We also started making agreements with the Palestinian Authority to let Palestinians work in the hotel business,” Barda said.

Jasman said that despite the challenges, his company never stopped working, which helped to keep its remaining staff ready for the revival of incoming tourism.

He said that when the country closed to foreigners, Israelis showed increased interest in exploring new activities in the country, so his company managed to keep revenue coming in and the staff working.

Barda said that the ministry has been researching trends around the world to understand the “post-pandemic traveler” and new phenomenon resulting from the COVID pandemic.

For instance, people are starting to take “three-generation vacations,” meaning, for example, the grandfather, father, and son traveling together. “People started to appreciate life and now we get to see a lot of three generations traveling together.”

Also, people are tending to be more interested in visiting rural areas, which are less crowded and so considered COVID friendly. “The tendency is to leave very crowded clubs and go to nature,” Barda said.

He added that people are not organizing their trips as far in advance as they used to. “We are seeing people planning trips three or even two weeks ahead of time,” Barda said.

Israeli tourism industry players are doing their best to create a COVID-safe experience for their clients.

Jasman explained what that means for his travel agency. “All of our guides and drivers are triple vaccinated, and once a week, we ask them to take antigen tests. We provide a PCR testing service for the clients who want to take an extra one because they don’t trust the testing at the airport or for any other reason. We inform our guests of the regulations, we have a very flexible cancellation policy, and we try to provide many tours that are not in crowded places,” he said.

“We want people to come to Israel; it is open for business. We are waiting for you with open arms, and we have been waiting too long,” Barda said.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 1:50 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.

CountryConfirmed CasesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Afghanistan173,0477,578153,89011,579
Algeria264,4886,816177,08280,590
Bahrain501,6431,444469,99430,205
Cyprus313,406833124,370188,203
Djibouti15,54318915,3477
Egypt475,34123,889406,10745,345
Iran7,011,932135,9526,579,768296,212
Iraq2,298,16424,9312,233,56639,667
Israel3,589,33310,0753,467,926111,332
Jordan1,599,42213,7511,445,203140,468
Kuwait616,4092,533599,58114,295
Lebanon1,057,00010,027682,977363,996
Libya491,2166,232454,45830,526
Mauritania58,62197757,57173
Morocco1,159,94115,9381,137,9206,083
Oman379,6184,238362,80012,580
Pakistan1,505,32830,1141,412,42962,785
Palestinian Territories572,8545,179540,08127,594
Qatar355,740664350,1544,922
Saudi Arabia742,5418,991718,97914,571
Somalia26,3131,34813,18211,783
Sudan61,3503,89540,32917,126
Syria54,0403,05946,0884,893
Tunisia992,57427,640938,10626,828
Turkey13,762,18193,25812,949,425719,498
United Arab Emirates877,4062,299827,06748,040
Yemen11,7512,1308,5821,039
Total38,967,202443,98036,212,9822,310,240

 

Steven Ganot contributed to this report.

Give the Gift of Trusted News!

Dear friends,

The Media Line is always there to report to you the stories and issues of the Middle East – completely and in context: TML is the source you can trust.

Know The Media Line to Know The Middle East!

Please support our ad-free, nonprofit news agency. Our seasoned journalists reporting from the Middle East are working day and night during these challenging, yet defining times; and our student interns are honing their knowledge and skills, preparing to emerge as tomorrow’s journalists.

You rely on us and we’re relying on you! Make your online tax-deductible donation here and contact us regarding donations through appreciated stock, donor advised funds, qualifying IRA distributions and other charitable instruments.

Thank you for confidence in The Media Line.
 
Felice Friedson
Founder, President

Invest in the
Trusted Mideast
News source.
We are on the
front lines.

Personalize Your News
Upgrade your experience by choosing the categories that matter most to you.
Click on the icon to add the category to your Personalize news
Browse Categories and Topics
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.