Tour groups visit Israel as government fails to send clear message to reopen

After days of unconfirmed rumors and snippets of disinformation about when Israel would finally allow foreign tourists to visit en masse, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened his “corona cabinet” on Sunday in a bid to coordinate the government’s response to the resurgent delta variant.

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Meanwhile, a limited number of groups of foreign nationals continue to enter the country, as part of a pilot program of the Ministry of Tourism, through educational programs and as members of parliamentary delegations. A spokeswoman for the ministry, Lydia Weitzman, explained that only about 1,500 of the tourists are expected to visit Israel by the end of July as part of the pilot project. While the first 20 groups arrived in June as part of a lottery scheme, the following groups of five to 30 vaccinated people can be brought into the country by any tour operator, as long as they meet the criteria. set by the Ministries of Health and Tourism. some groups are from the United States, others are from Europe, UK and South America, ”the Tourism Department told The Media Line. “Many, but not all, of the tourists arriving in groups are Christian pilgrims, others come for sightseeing and recreation. On Monday, eight groups from North and South America traveled to Israel.

Meanwhile, non-tourist groups continue to enter the country in accordance with government guidelines. Among them was a group of around 40 French MPs who visited Israel on July 19, at the initiative of the European Leadership Network (ELNET), a non-partisan NGO, in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Pierre-Henri Dumont, member of the French National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke to The Media Line about the delegation’s three-day visit. “The purpose of the trip was first to meet the new government,” he said. “For me, it was the third time that I had come here to Israel. And that was to find out how things have changed since the Abrahamic accords [normalizing relations between Israel and four Arab countries]. I mean, it is a game changer in the Middle East conflict. “Dumont described his experience of entering the country during the pandemic as” more difficult [than before the pandemic]. Obviously we had to do some testing, but the Israeli medical professionals were actually very effective. Jacob Monty, a Houston-based lawyer who co-founded the Center for Latino-Jewish Relations with Peter Tarlow, brought in over 100 Latino leaders. in Israel since 2011. Monty told The Media Line that his group of 13 young Latino leaders, who entered Israel as part of the Tourism Ministry’s pilot program, were on a hasbara (public diplomacy) trip. and the main purpose of our trip, the mission, was to connect Latin American leaders with Israel and to develop a relationship between the two communities, ”he said. Participants in the trip from the Center for Latin-Jewish Relations to the site of Jesus’ baptism on the Jordan River.Tarlow told The Media Line “it was extremely difficult” to bring a band to the country. “There was one roadblock after another. Several times I have thought about giving up. When asked to elaborate, he explained, “There is a lot of bureaucracy, and they keep changing. [things]. We were to come in June. We moved in July because they were going to have “open skies”. At the last moment they changed [it]. “This comes just a day after the government’s welcome but belated clarification on its response to the delta variant. For tour operators like Mark Feldman, a Jerusalem Post columnist and director of the Diesenhaus BTC travel advisory firm in Jerusalem, the problem for tourism professionals “is that we need the government to speak with one mouth, [with] one voice. “” What has happened in recent days is that the prime minister has told the Israelis not to travel [abroad], the health ministry said we should close the airport, other officials announced that tourists will no longer be allowed in from August 1. Everyone speaks on both sides of their mouth, ”he said. Bennett and his advisers have decided that the public Security Ministry, which oversees Israel’s police, will now handle all aspects of the application regarding the novel coronavirus. Now there will be “indictments against verified coronavirus patients who knowingly violate quarantine and endanger public health”, and this will be implemented using technology tools such as the Haskamon phone app to impose quarantine, said the Prime Minister’s media adviser. Using the app, the police can text a quarantined person. When they click on the message, the app sends their location to the police. Due to the delta variant, which accounts for over 90% of new COVID-19 cases in Israel, the number of daily infections has been increasing steadily since mid-June, topping 1,000 on July 13 and numbering 1,237 on July 13. July 19. Yet, thanks to the high level of vaccination, there are only 60 coronavirus patients in serious condition. The government’s new focus on the app confirms the suspicions of those like Feldman, who argue that “the problem is people have flouted quarantine. Nonetheless, for tour operators and other business owners dependent on inbound tourism, the announcement appears to foreshadow a further postponement of Israel’s reopening date. says the general belief is that the reopening will now be postponed from August 1 to September 1. Still, he explained to The Media Line, “September in Israel will be a month full of vacation, so I don’t think in ink, they’re going to open it in September, and even though it will be open, no one will come. The tourism ministry told The Media Line, “With the increasing morbidity rates in Israel and around the world due to the delta variant, discussions are ongoing. Continue with relevant government ministries regarding a date. opening for inbound individual tourism. An announcement will be made if necessary. “Licher looks forward to the reopening. When asked how his business is coping with the limited volume of inbound tourism, he lamented that” we are experts in receptive tourism. [tourism], so trying to do something else is like trying to start a new business. So for now, in fact, we’re not doing anything. Oksana Mats of Bein Harim Tourism Services echoed the sentiment, telling The Media Line: “We do inbound tourism, so basically we’re waiting for the skies to be open. We have no domestic tourism [clients]. “For those who depend on inbound tourism, there is little relief until the country reopens, and business is virtually non-existent. Feldman told The Media Line that” we’re down 70% [from 2019]. In other words, it is a massive decrease in both inflows and outflows [tourism]“The outlook for tour operators has worsened further with the announcement that as of July 23, Spain and Kyrgyzstan will be added to the list of countries banned from travel. Other countries currently banned from travel are Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Uzbekistan. Additionally, 15 countries were listed as high risk on July 16, meaning that tourists entering from those countries must self-isolate upon arrival in Israel. whether they have been vaccinated or recovered from the virus. On July 23, 11 more countries will be added to this list, including Great Britain, Cyprus and Turkey. However, for non-tourist groups like the French delegation, business continues as usual. Lawmakers from the French National Assembly and Senate, the largest delegation to arrive in Israel since the COVID-19 outbreak, came to represent the country’s broad political spectrum, meet with Israel’s new political leadership and discuss relations. Israeli-French and mutual interests Europe has with Israel. The delegation met Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday evening before heading south to see an Iron Dome air defense battery, attend a security briefing, and meet Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi, who introduced them to the city ​​dwellers living under constant conditions. threat of terrorism and rockets from the neighboring Gaza Strip. Dumont and the other parliamentarians discussed Israel’s and France’s respective vaccination campaigns with senior Israeli health officials. “We have to find a way, both in Israel and in France, and I think in all other Western countries, to vaccinate the 20% of people who are unwilling to be vaccinated because we think, and I think it is the only solution to end this pandemic, ”commented Dumont. Looking at the problem with a broader approach, he went on to postulate that “we have to find a way to send vaccines to third world countries, to make sure that the pandemic does not develop new variants which could be more. dangerous even if we are vaccinated “. he need to revitalize tourism has become urgent for the Israeli economy. A spokesperson for the Tourism Ministry said: “The limits on inbound tourism have had a devastating effect on the Israeli tourism industry. While 2019 was a banner year, inbound travelers created more than 200,000 jobs and added 22 billion shekels (about 6.7 billion) to Israel’s economy, the spokesperson acknowledged that “the continued spread of the coronavirus in 2021 will have a severe impact on employment in the tourism industry. of the last budget adopted in Israel (2019). “Meanwhile, the ministry continues to promote Israel as a healthy and desirable travel destination, while seizing” the opportunity to develop and modernize tourism infrastructure, with a view to reopening the inbound tourism industry to Israel.


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