Tourism Ministry: Tourist Arrivals Decreased by 81.3% in 2020

YERUSHALAYIM -
The empty incoming flights hall at Ben Gurion International Airport in April. (Flash90)

Around 850,000 tourists entered Israel over the course of 2020 – a decrease of 81.3% compared to 2019, the Tourism Ministry said in a statement last week.

With the outbreak of the coronavirus that spread across the globe in February and March, a year that began with optimism for another record-breaking year for incoming tourist arrivals to Israel was interrupted with historically unprecedented closed skies and an industry licking its financial wounds.

The tourism industry, which annually rolls revenues of tens of billions of shekels, was one of the industries hit the worst by the coronavirus crisis.

According to the ministry, close to 200,000 families employed in tourism lost their livelihood, and some even lost their life’s work.

Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen (Blue and White) lamented the “severe blow” taken by the tourism industry and said that her office was preparing a work plan for bringing back tourists in the middle of 2021 – while adjusting to the “corona era.”

“We are already working together with the Health Ministry on an exit plan for the tourism industry. The plan will create certainty and it will operate under the principle that whoever was most affected in previous times will be among the first to open as we exit lockdown,” she added.

In order to alleviate the financial difficulties of hotel owners, the ministry said that it will release grants to hoteliers worth in total NIS 300 million ($93 million), which will be given in three installments, the last of which will be distributed in May 2021.