Thanks to a robust vaccination program (one of the fastest in the world), the Israel Ministry of Tourism is hopeful that the country will be able to welcome back tourists from the U.S. and Canada soon.
Israel had already vaccinated some 80 percent of its adult population, was turning it into "not only an attractive destination but a healthy destination."
Gal Hana, Canada’s consul tourism director for the Israel Ministry of Tourism, told Travel Market Report the hope is by the end of Q3 to welcome tourists, but 2022 is looking like it will be a boom for the industry across the globe.
“Tourism will start sooner than others will expect, Thailand and Greece have opened to tourism, and there are more and more vaccines being administered. It’s a very positive sign,” Hana said.
“People need to visit their friends and families—what the pandemic highlighted was we can’t stay in one place for too long, travel gives us a fresh perspective and what we’ve taken for granted. It opens your eyes.”
Hana said that the past year has given Israel’s Ministry of Tourism the opportunity to “rebuild tourism smarter.”
Prior to the pandemic, the country’s biggest issue was over-tourism. So, Hana said Israel worked to “shift people more across the country and see hidden gems” by promoting local traditions “to make sure tourists come to Israel not only to see Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but so many other places across the region and spread out the demand.”
This included developing infrastructure outside of main sites and making it inclusive to everyone, including accessibility to those with disabilities. Hana noted that Israel is the first country that by regulation every hotel is required to have an accessible room.
Other sites that have taken the opportunity to renovate and upgrade their facilities include The Tower of David, the symbol of Jerusalem. For the first time in close to 50 years, it will undergo a multi-million-dollar renewal and conservation project.
In addition, the Terra Sancta Museum, a museum network that includes all the places of conservation of historical, artistic, and archaeological heritage of the Custody of the Holy Land, is undergoing renovation. Magdala, a holy site near the Sea of Galilee, has been organizing virtual pilgrimages throughout the pandemic, and The Emmaus Trail is being constructed to allow visitors to hike from the Saxum Visitor Center to Emmaus Nicopolis.
“I think what we are seeing is amazing every big U.S. carrier is operating direct flights to Israel,” Hana said. American Airlines has recently announced the launch of a direct daily flight from JFK to Tel Aviv starting May 6, 2021, as well as a nonstop flight from Miami to Tel Aviv, three times a week beginning in June. New Yorkers have other options as well with direct flights weekly on Delta, United Airlines and EL AL Airlines.
Hana added the hotel industry continued to develop and invest throughout the coronavirus, in anticipation of the return of tourism.
New hotel openings this year including Six Senses Shaharut, opening in August, in the Arava Valley of the Negev Desert with 58 ultra-luxe and sustainable suites and villas. The onsite amenities will include an Earth Lab, camel stables, Senses Spa, authentic Bedouin dining experience and more.
Boutique hotel Soho House Tel Aviv, located in a former convent in the historic Jaffa neighborhood, will debut this spring with an outdoor pool, terrace, and 24 guestrooms, as well as Nobu Tel Aviv, with 38 guestrooms, a large garden, fitness center, pool, outdoor spaces and a private rooftop.
After postponing its opening to early 2021, Sofia Sea of Galilee Hotel is a new spa and resort property in a converted 19th-century historic stone house. It features 120 luxury rooms, a luxurious spa, several restaurants and bars, and an infinity pool.
Israel will also welcome Royal Caribbean International’s brand-new ship, Odyssey of the Seas, which will begin sailing from Israel for the first time in May.
The cruise line will offer Israelis a combination of 3- to 7-night escapes visiting the Greek Isles and Cyprus onboard its highly-anticipated, brand-new ship, Odyssey of the Seas. The new sailings will go on sale on Tuesday, March 9.
The itineraries, roundtrip from Haifa, Israel, will include visits to idyllic isles and destinations in the Mediterranean, including Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos and Athens, Greece and Limassol, Cyprus.