Was it only days ago that the Israel Ministry of Tourism held a joyful travel trade media conference in Toronto to declare “Israel is Open!”
And now, as of yesterday, the country is closed for two weeks to arriving foreigners because of the discovery of the Omicron Covid variant.
Yet Gal Hana, Consul of the Israel Ministry of Tourism remained surprisingly upbeat at a presentation to travel advisors on Tuesday at Travel Market Report’s Travel Marketplace East. “I am confident that closing at this time was the most responsible thing we could have done. We will continue to be safe rather than sorry.” By the end of the closure, he estimates that Israel will be the “safest country in the world.”
A country with a high vaccination rate (according to Reuters, almost 90%), Israel has introduced a Green Passport for visitors’ smartphones, allowing automatic access to restaurants, entertainment venues and museums. And Israelis, we were told, are very conscientious about mask-wearing and other protocols.
Hana was proud to note that four US airlines actually started service to Israel during Covid. In 2019, Canadian visitors were up 30%. And Israel enjoys an impressive 60% visitor repeat factor.
For a tiny country (Israel would fit almost 3 times into Nova Scotia), there is a jaw-dropping array of things for clients to do. These range from hiking to Grade A shopping, to experiencing wineries, floating on the Dead Sea, participating in archaeological digs (cool!) and – if your clients are missing snow – even experiencing snow-capped mountains.
Speaking of snow, as clients across Canada have been dusting off their shovels, now is a good time to remember Israel’s welcoming Mediterranean climate. Yesterday it was 28°c in Tel Aviv.