From cancelled flights to stay-at-home orders and even strict border closures, COVID-19 has crushed so many businesses. But no industry has taken a bigger hit than the tourism sector.
For months, travel agents around the world have wondered when coveted tourist hotspots like Israel would reopen its borders.
Well, now that moment is finally here – but in today’s “new normal,” visiting Israel will come with a cost that not every freedom lovin’ American will want to pay.
After staying home for nearly a year, a lot of travelers are itching to visit their favorite destinations and Israel is no exception.
So in response, the Tourism Ministry of Israel came up with a genius plan to entice travelers and kickstart their travel industry.
Since tour operators have struggled immensely under pandemic restrictions, they were invited by the Tourism Ministry to offer group services to tourists on a first come, first serve basis.
“The program has a 20-group limit, and each group must have between 5 and 30 attendees in it,” reports The Jerusalem Post.
To everyone’s amazement, every ticket sold out within 9 minutes of the program’s launch!
But here’s the catch.
There are strict criteria for travelers who purchased tickets under this program, so it won’t be surprising if some winners will ultimately have to unpack their bags and give the next applicant in line the coveted slot.
All tourists participating in the pilot program are required 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” reported The Jerusalem Post.
If that isn’t enough, travelers will have to take not one, but two PCR tests – one within 72 hours before departure and one upon arrival.
Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen told The Jerusalem Post:
“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. I worked to ensure that the pilot for incoming vaccinated tourist groups would not be postponed, because of its importance.”
But, considering Israel is a must-see destination for many Christians, it may be a small price to pay.
You would think Israel would be one of the last places people would want to visit right now as they’ve been under almost constant attack by enemies – with up to a 195 rockets flying into Israeli territory a day, according to the New York Times.
But the Iron Dome missile defense system destroys most of the rockets before they’re able to do real harm, which is one of the many reasons why Israel has always been a safe place to travel.
In addition, the Tourism Ministry has worked tirelessly to keep the infrastructure and industry in place and ready to go as soon as people could start traveling again.
A whopping NIS 300 million was pumped into the hotel industry to keep it afloat while Israel rode out the pandemic.
Before COVID-19 closed down the world, Israel saw 4.55 million tourists pour into the country in 2019, eager to check out the Dead Sea, Temple Mount, and lounge along the lengthy beaches of Tel Aviv.
So, if you happen to be one of the tourists selected to travel to one of the hottest destinations of the year, be sure you travel like a pro with our expert tips.
It will undoubtedly take time for the airlines, hotels, tour operators, and countless vendors to recover from the unprecedented losses from the coronavirus pandemic – but the success of this pilot program just proves the unyielding resilience of an industry built on man’s relentless curiosity and need for adventure!