New figures show how the coronavirus pandemic slashed Israel’s 2020 tourist numbers by more than 81 percent on the year before, resulting in a huge financial loss.
Statistics from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism record only 850,000 visitors across the last 12 months, many of whom visited before the lockdown in March.
The decrease of 81.3 percent hit an industry that typically enjoys revenues of tens of billions of shekels and employs more than 200,000 people, many of whom have now lost their jobs or businesses.
The ministry has sought to preserve Israel’s tourist infrastructure “to prepare for the day after the pandemic,” but despite a rapid vaccination programme, optimism is still in short supply.
Initial confidence that 2020 would be another record-breaking year for entry figures ended with the skies closed and a ban on tourists, but officials now say they have “prepared a work plan for bringing back tourists in the middle of 2021”.
Minister of Tourism Orit Farkash-Hacohen said 2020 had “dealt a severe blow to the tourism industry”, adding that people working in the tourism industry had seen their income “totally decimated”.
Farkash-Hacohen said the ministry was “working together with the Ministry of Health on an exit plan for the tourism industry… under the principle that whoever was most affected in previous times will be among the first to open as we exit lockdown”.
The ministry’s director-general Amir Halevi said: “The world stopped, and we moved into survival mode.
“Thanks to the vaccines, we are beginning to see the light of day… We hope that in the coming months we will once again witness incoming tourism traffic, which is critical to employment and an important engine in the Israeli economy.”
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