Israel’s Gal Hana Discusses Post-COVID Changes To Tourism
Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw
The country that gave birth to one of the world’s safest airlines says its plans to securely relaunch tourism in the post-COVID environment are well underway.
After nearly two months under quarantine, Israel began lifting restrictions domestically and allowing businesses, including accommodations and tourist attractions to reopen on 03MAY, 2020, well ahead of most of the world.
Open Jaw spoke with Gal Hana, Consul, Director of Tourism for Canada about the destination’s plans to welcome back international tourists.
Hana says there's no official target for reopening borders, but when the time comes, it will be done "very rationally" and in collaboration with partner nations.
Anyone who’s ever experienced Israel knows it truly is a magical place which relies heavily on tourism. So finding a balance between attracting tourists while keeping them safe is extremely important.
"We are re-evaluating how to promote tourism with the precautions that are necessary and essential to keep people safe. We are planning in every way what we can do to maximize the experience while keeping precautions in place to keep everyone safe," Hana says.
Hotels have begun to reopen gradually, Hanna tells OJ, starting with small bed-and-breakfast-type properties and only the ground floor of multi-storey accommodations to eliminate the use of elevators. Self-serve buffet dining is being replaced with room service.
Hotels will also be required to check guests' temperatures, enhance sanitation procedures and implement social distancing protocols.
"We've looked at how we can reduce any unneeded interactions with the guest to a minimum and are working very closely with the Ministry of Health to make sure that guests are safe," Hana says.
Tourist attractions and historic sites, too, are taking steps to manage crowds and facilitate social distancing. National parks will require tickets to be purchased in advance, says Hana, in order manage the demand. The parks have also announced they are going to extend the operational hours to better spread access.
"We understand that it's a big challenge, but everyone is dedicated to making it work," Hana says.
Attractions and commercial establishments that are able to ensure social distancing will be among the first to open, with those that attract crowds, such as sporting events, opening at a later time.
With TLV welcoming 90% of Israel's international traffic, Hana says the country has a unique advantage in its ability to monitor and control incoming visitors.
"It's very easy to manage the international traffic into Israel when you have only one airport. This is why we are really optimistic that once things reopen, we will be able to accept tourists at an early stage, just like when we opened domestic travel at an early stage as opposed to other destinations that unfortunately are still struggling," he says.
In 2019, 98,000 Canadians visited Israel, and the destination welcomed a total of 4.6 million visitors. Hana says 2020 was off to a robust start before the coronavirus disrupted travel.
Virtual Travel: #InspiredByIsrael
To keep Canadians interested in travelling to Israel, the Israel Ministry of Tourism has partnered with experts in the culinary, fitness and entertainment spaces to virtually bring the destination into the homes of travellers around the world throughout the entire month of May.
"It's an opportunity to engage with us on a higher level and to keep the inspiration going," said Hana. "It's not the same as physically being there, but it will be enough to get you motivated and inspired to go to Israel when everything will be open again."
Here's a summary of the Ministry's #InspiredByIsrael events to come:
13MAY at 4 p.m. ET: Celebrate International Hummus Day onInstagram Livewith Jamie Milne of@everything_delishby learning the step-by-step process of how to make hummus.
18MAY at 4 p.m. ET: Join Head Pastry Chef Edan Leshnick ofBreads BakeryonInstagram Liveand learn how to make delicious rugelach right from home.
24MAY at 11 a.m. ET: Chef Shachar Levy will take overFacebook Liveto make a kebab in pita with a special tahini sauce.
31MAY at 11 a.m. ET: Join fitness trainer Raz Hadad for a live workout on Tel Aviv beach onFacebook Live.
"Tourism is a major economic engine and we need it to kick off as soon as possible," Hana says. "That's why we want to keep people inspired and hopeful, so they know that travel is just around the corner."
Anna Kroupina Journalist
Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.