Israel is expecting 100,000 visitors per year from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) once the COVID travel restrictions ease, and to that end last week hosted a virtual UAE-Israel tourism forum with more than 300 trade partners from the UAE and over a hundred more from Israel. The peace deal signed between Israel and the UAE earlier this year has already borne fruit in terms of meetings and cooperation – and the tourism forum shows the sides are planning for even more collaboration in the months and years ahead. The press release on the forum noted that the event was “to build the foundation for a long-term tourism relationship between Israel and the UAE.”
Israeli Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen was quoted in an Israeli press release on the forum as saying, “Tourism is key to building a lasting peace between countries, and Israel looks forward to welcoming travelers from the UAE. I am certain visitors from the Emirates and other countries will enjoy the unique blend of this new, and near, destination.”
As part of the peace deal between the countries, the UAE and Israel signed a mutual visa waiver agreement, which eliminates the need to obtain a visa in advance of arriving in the country. Flights between Israel and the UAE have also already begun, with Israir, El Al and Flydubai sending planes to and from the countries. More airlines are poised to start flights in 2021.
Tourism is a major part of the Israeli economy, with the Tourism Ministry website reporting that more than 4.9 million tourists and day visitors came to the country in 2019, the last full year before COVID-19 dramatically cut down international tourism. Prior to 2020, Israel had seen annual combined tourism and day visits increase every year since 2016.
Looking ahead past 2020 and the COVID crisis, Farkash-Hacohen painted a vision of Israel offering a wide range of interests for tourists from the UAE and around the world. While the UAE-Israel tourism forum focused on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, there is much more to the country.
“Israel is where thousands of years of history meet modern day life. It is the home of Tel Aviv and the StartUp Nation and of ancient Caesarea and the magnificent Dead Sea,” Farkash-Hacohen said in the press release. “Israel’s unique religious sites are holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, with Jerusalem at their center. Alongside the sites, visitors will enjoy the people, culture, art, music and culinary delights.”
The 2020 virtual forum isn’t the only tourism program involving the UAE and Israel. Israel’s Ministry of Tourism is expected to participate in the Arabian Travel Mart and EXPO Dubai in 2021.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, December 20, 2020)