Before the COVID-19 pandemic swept in, several in the tourism industry anticipated a record year for Israeli tourism with up to 5 million incoming tourists in 2020.
Instead, Israel is lagging behind the rest of the world in reopening to tourists and there is little hope for any chance of that in the immediate future as the government considers imposing more shutdown across the public sector.
This could spell disaster for businesses that normally enjoy an economic boost during the high season and the high holidays. The country was already closed during Passover and Easter when hundreds of thousands visitors enter Israel. But now it is also in danger of losing out on Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot
Aside from the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the past three weeks, Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport does not have an efficient coronavirus screening protocol in place to allow travelers to enter. The Health Ministry rejected the possibility of setting up a coronavirus laboratory there.
Some countries have established in-airport screening of visitors. Guests are required to stay in their hotel rooms until a fast-tracked virus screening is cleared. This enables these countries to keep tourism alive while also protecting itself from an influx of infected visitors.
Israel, however, is currently preoccupied with the rise of virus cases at home. Ashi Shalmon, director of the International Relations Division in the Health Ministry, said Israel needs the resources.
“The skies will remain closed at least until September, especially now when we are getting closer towards a full lockdown,” Shalmon told Israel Hayom. “We first need to regain control over what's going on here and then to reopen the skies.”