Israel readies itself for high UAE tourist numbers post-pandemic: Ministry official

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Israel is readying itself to welcome more than 100,000 visitors from the UAE when pandemic restrictions lift, and normal daily lives return, a senior official from Israel’s tourism ministry told Al Arabiya English.

Ksenia Kobiakov, the director for New Markets Development, said that despite the current pandemic, and restrictions forcing Israel to close its borders, there is lots of interest from the UAE to visit the country. Wholesalers are reporting high demand. “We are expecting that after borders open we will see respectable numbers of tourists arriving in Israel,” she said.

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“With the work plan we've created in order to develop this market, we are sure that after the world comes back to normal, we will expect at least 100,000 [UAE] tourists per year.”

The UAE is a new market for Israel and specifically placed in the ministry’s New Markets Development department.
“We see great potential in incoming tourism from that destination,” said Kobiakov.

“Over the last year, the ministry, in cooperation with the Israel Land Authority, has marketed about ten plots for hotel accommodation, advancing the process of building about 2,050 new hotel rooms.”

She revealed that, in recent months, the tourism ministry transferred grants totaling NIS 69.5 million to tourism projects located across the country.

An approval to create a master plan for tourism infrastructure at the national level has also been made. The plan takes into account accommodation, attractions, transportation and more to give the tourist a full package of activities.

“We are inspecting the sites which we think will be of interest to tourists from the UAE, building itineraries for hostings, teaching hoteliers how to correctly host the UAE tourists and boosting the training of tour guides,” Kobiakov said.

A waitress serves food at a restaurant in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (File photo: AP)
A waitress serves food at a restaurant in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (File photo: AP)

In 2020 about 850,000 tourists entered Israel, a decrease of 81.3 per cent compared to the previous year.

“The tourism industry, which enjoyed revenues of tens of billions of shekels, was hit hardest by the corona crisis,” she said.
“Nearly 200,000 families employed in tourism lost their livelihoods.”

“Nevertheless, we spearheaded a series of moves for preserving the tourist infrastructure, both physical and marketing, to prepare and be ready for the day after the pandemic.”

Israel’s huge decline in international visitor numbers last year was drastic, compared to 2019.

“In 2019, the Ministry of Tourism recorded an all-time high of 4.55 million visitors to the country, which injected about NIS 23 billion into the economy,” said Kobiakov.

“This benefited mainly small and medium-sized businesses.”

“We can see that tourism is at the top of income resources of Israel.

“We are sure that the new normalization agreements will benefit both the tourism in UAE and Israel. Tourists from other countries will be able to arrive via shorter and cheaper flights.”

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