The year 2020, which began with optimism for breaking another record in tourist arrivals to Israel, which was supposed to join the highs of recent years, ended with the closure of the sky and a ban on tourists entering, for the first time in Israel.
This year, about 850,000 tourists entered Israel – a decrease of 81.3% compared to last year. The tourism industry, which enjoyed revenues of tens of billions of ILS, was hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis.
Nearly 200,000 families employed in tourism lost their earnings, and some even lost their livelihoods. The Ministry of Tourism, which is responsible for the industry that is the engine of growth for the economy, has come out to help and led a series of moves aimed at preserving the tourist infrastructure, both physical and marketing, to prepare and be ready for the day after the plague.
These days, with the start of the vaccination campaign, the Ministry of Tourism has prepared a work plan for returning tourists, in the middle of 2021. The plan includes adaptation to the COVID-19 era of all areas of the ministry’s activities – marketing, infrastructure and the tourist experience. All this, subject to the limit of the lack of an approved state budget.
Minister of Tourism, Orit Farkash HaCohen: “The past year has been a severe blow to the tourism industry. Years of this kind should be used to strengthen and build infrastructure, work plans and programs that strengthen the industry for a moment when it can reopen. This, along with concern for the industry and despite the difficulties, we were able to implement significant plans that helped the economy during this period, starting with an outline of green islands, a grant of 300 million ILS for hoteliers, early opening of B&Bs, a tour program with guides, a personal security program in hotels and more”.
“In the coming year we will build the master plan for tourism infrastructure, which will take care of holistic tourism at the national level. This, while changing the implementation of infrastructure projects in an alternative way for government companies. Also, soon we will transfer the money to fund projects. Working together with the Ministry of Health on a plan to withdraw from the quarantine for the industry, the plan will create certainty and it will operate under the principle – that whoever is most affected the previous time will open earlier in the quarantine. At the same time, we are working on a cost reduction plan. A lot of work is still ahead of us, we will find the right balance between the economy and the virus and give breathing space to the various parts that have been affected in the industry”.
Director General of the Ministry of Tourism, Amir Halevi: “The year 2020 continued the tourism records of the previous two years and there was an expectation to receive, for the first time in the history of the country, the 5 millionth tourist. Instead, the world stopped and we moved into a state of survival of the entire industry and a change in the activities of the ministry for the preservation of the physical infrastructure and of the excellent human capital of the tourism industry. Thanks to the vaccines, we are starting to see the light of day, preparing with tailored work plans and various tools for returning tourism, and we hope that in the coming months we will return to seeing inbound tourism, which is critical to employment and an important engine in the Israeli economy.”