Tourism Ministry pilot program for travel groups sells out in minutes

The Tourism Ministry has launched a pilot program for reopening the country to tourism. All available slots were sold out within nine minutes of opening for registration.

As part of their pilot for allowing group entry into Israel, the ministry invited tour operators to submit requests to bring one group each during the pilot period. 

The program has a 20 group limit, and each group must have between 5 and 30 attendees in it. 

Within nine minutes of opening, registration closed again as the limit had been met. The groups will be selected on a first-come first-served basis, and any groups that fail to meet the requirements will be replaced by a later applicant.

Despite the ongoing security situation, the high level of interest was to be expected since travel agents around the globe have been enquiring over the last few weeks into when tourists will be allowed to enter Israel again.

All incoming tourists will need to be vaccinated with a COVID vaccine approved by the Health Ministry, and only people from countries that meet the ministry’s requirements will be allowed to attend. In addition, they will be required to perform two PCR tests – one up to 72 hours before entering Israel and one upon arrival. 

These complex times, in terms of security, are adversely affecting the recovery of the tourism industry from the recent corona crisis. At the same time, this situation will not last long,” said Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen. 

“I am glad that the many efforts have borne fruit and that the pilot for bringing vaccinated tourists into Israel has been launched and received such a positive response,” she said. “I worked to ensure that the pilot for incoming vaccinated tourist groups would not be postponed, because of its importance.”

Over the last year, the Tourism Ministry turned its attention to promoting “Green Tourism Islands” such as Eilat and the Dead Sea in an effort to boost Israeli tourism at a time when no foreign travel groups were able to enter the country.

In addition to this, they worked to maintain the physical tourism infrastructure in Israel and international marketing channels, in order to return the tourism industry to full operations as quickly as possible.

A total of NIS 300 million was distributed to hotels across Israel in an effort to keep them afloat while the tourism industry was shut down. Inbound tourism is critical in order for the industry to begin to recover.

“The high level of response [to the pilot] shows the degree of interest among tourists to visit Israel, despite the current security situation,” according to Tourism Ministry director-general Amir Halevi. “This seems to be the best indication of the resilience of the Israeli tourism industry.”

The Israeli tourism industry enjoyed rapid growth in recent years, with a record-breaking 4.55 million tourists arriving to the country in 2019. This upward trajectory was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite signs of recovery and a successful vaccination campaign, about a third of all hotels across the country remain closed. 

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