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Will Israel see 100,000 Emiratis a year once the skies reopen?

That’s what Israel’s Ministry of Tourism hopes, but the skies are closed over the Holy Land yet again

Israel's Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen addresses reporters during UAE-Israel tourism forum between Israel and Gulf nations on Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo: Ministry of Tourism)

Hopes of seeing 100,000 Emiratis come to Israel a year beginning in January are already on hold.

On Monday, the prime minister ordered the skies closed and no foreigners may enter the country for at least 10 days, bringing us into 2021 with no sign of tourism returning to life in the Holy Land.

Israel’s decision to tighten border closures - in an effort to keep the new COVID mutation from entering Israel - came mere days after the first virtual UAE-Israel tourism forum during which Israel’s tourism minister said she expects 100,000 Emiratis annually to visit the Holy Land.

The closure freezes plans for visa-free travel for Emiratis and dozens of weekly flights between the two countries which were expected to begin at the end of this month.

Orit Farkash-Hacohen told reporters at the forum that Israel expects UAE pilgrims to Israel to be “a significant source of tourism to Israel.”

“We are waiting here in Israel to open the skies for visitors for Dubai and Abu Dhabi, hopefully with the arrangement of free visas at the end of the month,” she said during the online forum on Dec. 16.

Just a few days later, the government decision to close the airport entirely put those plans on ice.

The Abraham Accords, which brought normalized relations between the UAE and Israel, also resulted in several Emirati and Israeli airline companies planning daily flights between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv and vice versa.

Even Israelis, of which 50,000 already visited the UAE in the past few weeks while it was considered a “green” country, may not travel there now since new Israeli regulations require everyone to quarantine upon return.

The country has been closed to foreigners since March with the exception of several diplomatic missions that have been allowed to come to Israel. And based on last week’s forum, it seems Farkash-Hacohen was expecting UAE citizens to begin traveling to Israel already next week.

More than 300 trade partners from the UAE and 100 from Israel took part in the forum.

“Tourism is key to building a lasting peace between countries, and Israel looks forward to welcoming travelers from the UAE. I am certain visitors from the Emirates and other countries will enjoy the unique blend of this new, and near, destination. Israel is where thousands of years of history meet modern day life.”

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism will participate at the Arabian Travel Mart and EXPO Dubai in 2021.

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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