Israeli tourism minister wants to kick-start a devastated industry

ATHENS – As Israel prepares for what could be the biggest summer ever for inbound tourism – a reboot of an industry devastated by two years of restrictions and closures due to COVID-19 – Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov says the country is now ready and eager to welcome foreign visitors. especially the Jews of the Diaspora.

“Our industry has missed tourists a lot, especially Jews from diaspora communities in the US, France, the UK and other countries — we know how much people want to come now and see relatives they haven’t seen for two years,” Razvozov said. said Jewish insider.

Razvozov, who spoke with JI last week on the sidelines of the Israeli-Greek Conference, a one-day talk in Athens sponsored by Brown Hotels Group, an Israeli financial news agency, calcalistand Israeli airline Israir, which specializes in mutual travel, real estate, energy and innovation between countries, said Israel is now fully open to tourists.

Last month, Israel abandoned its COVID-19 testing policy at Ben Gurion International Airport, and since taking office a year ago, the minister said, he has been working to develop a long-term strategy that will address skyrocketing hotel prices and improve facilities and services. hospitality conditions.

Israeli tourism is slowly making a comeback, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, with about 262,700 foreign tourists arriving in May last year, about half as many as in May 2019, but more than in April 2022, when 216,400 foreign tourists arrived, many of which on Pesach. holiday.

“Prices in Israel are very high,” Razvozov admitted. Often, hotel prices that compete with prices in much more popular destinations do not match the same services found abroad.

“It’s a free market and the demand is very high,” Razvozov continued, explaining that he raised the issue with the hotel sector and began to implement reforms such as lowering the cost of kosher restaurants, which led to higher prices, and increasing permits for foreign workers. from the Philippines and Jordan to address the acute shortage of workers.

Razvozov, a former Israeli judo champion who made aliyah in 1991 as a child from the former Soviet Union, said he has faced a conflict of interest over the past year as a cabinet minister concerned about the spread of COVID-19. while at the same time representing a struggling industry hard hit by restrictions.

While those working in tourism did receive some compensation from the government for losses suffered during the pandemic, Razvozov, who was a member of the Knesset for Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, said the problem remains that many of those who were laid off or fired as the industry closed did not return to work in the sector.

“Shortage of workers is a global phenomenon; this is a problem for the entire hotel sector,” he explained.

While local and foreign tourists in Israel wait…

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