Israel tourism faces the nightmare again with Omicron scare

Published on : Saturday, December 18, 2021

For Israel’s travel industry, it seemed like the coronavirus nightmare had come to an end in November when the government permitted foreign tourists to enter the country for the first time in 21 months. Travel businesses restarted their operations, began hiring and launched marketing campaigns.

However, just three weeks later, with the emergence of the Omicron variant, the nightmare was back again. The government restricted foreign tourists again at least until December 29 and is making it tougher for Israelis to travel abroad by tightening quarantine rules and imposing curbs.

Globally, even in the best of circumstances, it is expected to take years for travel to find its way back to pre-COVID levels. A lot of travel may never come back in the face of digital alternatives.

The tourism industry is enraged over the Israel government’s zigzagging policies.

“We opened our offices for the first time since March 2020, employed people to work and started to see reservations – and two weeks later they shut us down again, which is catastrophic,” said Yossi Fattal, head of the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association. “Now we’re left with opened offices and employees but we’re under quarantine just as we’ve been since March 2020.”

Moreover, the Israeli response to Omicron by imposing a blanket ban on incoming tourism seems like an overreaction; only few countries have imposed one, and the World Health Organization has termed travel restrictions ineffective.

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