The Covid 19 crisis has had a detrimental effect on many businesses, but the tourism sector, in particular, has suffered terribly. The complete shutdown, with no tourists from abroad and shuttering of the country’s top sites even to Israelis, meant that the whole industry came to a halt. So yesterday, in a bid to encourage local tourism I sent subscribers of our website an article filled with ideas encouraging those living in Israel to support tourist sites as much as they can. After all, it’s a win-win: we Israelis can help boost this important sector, and also going out and staying away without having to ‘compete’ with the regular summer influx of tourists. So I suggested various ways that we can help boost the sector and help save businesses.
When I posted the article on our Facebook group (you can can read it here), it provoked a heated discussion and one that I feel is important to amplify. There are plenty of legitimate concerns on peoples minds.
Regrettably, the price of entry to Israeli attractions has risen year-on-year, including accommodation. Unfortunately, this has meant that a huge number of Israelis find it cheaper to book a holiday abroad than trying to find one here in Israel.
In addition, as someone pointed out, “Israeli citizens also have to pay more than foreign citizens at hotels, so although there are many incredible things to do and see here, it’s understandable that many people travel abroad for their holidays.”
From the discussion in my group, people are still holding out in hope that they will be allowed to travel abroad this summer because they would rather not spend double or more for pretty much the same vacation in Israel.
Many families and individuals have personally been affected economically by the lockdown and their budget for a vacation has decreased. We all understand that the tourism industry has been hit, yet the prices this year seem to have gone up compared to last year. This is clearly in order to help cover the industry’s losses, but this has a knock-on effect, making things less affordable for Israelis who at present are their only clients. The government should support the industry to bring down prices and make “staycations” more affordable: an investment in tourism is an investment in Israel itself:
“We are in Eilat as I write this.” posted one of our members, “The hotel and pools are lovely. But there is no more than 50% compliance (I am being generous) with Ministry of Health Corona guidelines.
If hotels want to survive, they need to decide that their clients must conform with guidelines. Otherwise, they will be closed by viral outbreaks.”
The other crucial factor that is preventing many people from booking vacations in Israel at the moment is the unknown: the fear that we are entering a second wave of the virus. Customers need reassurance that they will not lose their deposits when booking hotels or activities. Even more so, certainly among the Israeli-Anglo community, there is a big concern about the lack of compliance to the ‘Purple Standard’ requirements by the Ministry of Health.
The purple standard is a sensible and essential level of hygiene and social distancing required BY LAW for all businesses and places of employment across the country. As another of our members put, the lack of enforcement by the government means that “aside from many other people also feeling the financial pinch, there are also many people who would usually go on vacation but who are still having to isolate for medical reasons (especially many over the age of 60 and 70) and don’t feel that hotels and other potentially crowded indoor spaces are safe. The hospitality and tourism industries don’t seem to be doing enough to reassure that demographic. It’s a missed opportunity.”.
Another person said, “There is very little that can convince me that it’s worth it to go away for a couple of nights here in Israel. Most places are simply not clean enough or well-priced enough.. It’s not just the money, I know many people who simply do not feel safe regarding hygiene standards, masks, distancing etc., within the confines of a hotel or other shared indoor public space. I know people who have gone away this past week and regretted it because they felt hotels were not taking these issues seriously. To be clear, as far as we know no one was coming home ill, but they found it hard to enjoy when all around they felt that COVID precautions were not being taken seriously by the staff. Precisely because our tourism industry needs as much business as possible, there needs to be more emphasis on corona safety to reassure and protect guests and staff alike.”
We can, of course, take the attitude that another one of our members has, “acknowledging the reality and saying, “With the rise in prices, we can’t afford to do everything we had hoped to do, so let’s do an abbreviated version.” This will at least give our families a summer break to remember in a good way, and it will help the tourism a bit too.” However, this seems like such a shame.
I am writing this blog in the hope that hotels, Airbnb’s, zimmers and other tourism providers are given support and do their utmost to offer Israelis more affordable prices and the appropriate protection from COVID 19. There is an opportunity here to woo Israelis back to enjoying the incredible things that their country has to offer, and I hope that there will be a way that we can all help each other.
For my part, I will keep promoting and supporting our tourism industry and hope that we will all be able to do our part to help improve this situation.