Israel has announced that all passengers from the United Arab Emirates can now travel to the country, with vaccinated and unvaccinated tourists of all ages able to enter upon presentation of a negative PCR test before departure and after arrival. This follows an agreement between the UAE and Israel extending visa-free entry to all UAE nationals.
“People had already started coming last summer when we opened to vaccinated passengers,” Kobiakov said. “For religious tourists, it really makes no difference whether there is a pandemic or not.”
The head of tourism is counting on new markets such as the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain to bring Israel back to pre-Covid tourist numbers. Israel attracted more than 4.5 million tourists in 2019 and Jerusalem, by some estimates, was one of the fastest growing tourist markets in the world.
As for the UAE, the Israeli tourism body is already engaged in talks with major tour operators and plans to sign some marketing deals soon, Kobiakov said.
It is impossible for tourism to thrive without proper air links and after some initial setbacks it seems to be back on track. Israeli carriers, which had briefly halted flights to Dubai, are resuming flights at full capacity, the tourism official confirmed.
Emirates airline will launch flights to Tel Aviv from June 23, becoming the latest UAE airline to have operations in Israel after flydubai and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways.
The UAE offers easy flight connections to destinations such as Georgia, the Maldives and the Seychelles. This means that Israel will have to step up its game to attract visitors. Kobiakov doesn’t think that’s a problem. “Promoting Israel is easy because it is a country that was not available before,” the official said. “We have nine climatic zones in this small country, which means that tourists can enjoy pleasant weather throughout the year.”
Hospitality is one area where Israel could benefit from UAE expertise. “There is great interest from the UAE to build new hotels in Israel and invest in the tourism market. We see that happening and, to some extent, it is already happening.”