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Israel has been at the forefront of limiting the spread of COVID-19. And the destination is now working to implement new health and safety guidelines, designed to keep citizens and tourists safe when domestic tourism begins to open and as international flights start to resume.
“Israel is one of the countries ‘ahead of the curve in flattening the curve,’ slowly taking steps to get back to a new normal,” said Anat Ben Yosef, consul for tourism affairs, Western region USA for Israel Ministry of Tourism.
Already, hotels, restaurants, national parks and attractions have begun to open, but not without the application of extensive safety measures.
In order to reopen, every facility in Israel must follow the recommended “Purple Badge,” which includes a mandate to wear masks, continue social distancing and follow a strict schedule of regular cleaning and disinfecting. Tourism facilities, such as hotels and attractions, must train their staff on these new guidelines, upgrade air ventilation, reduce crowd sizes and create more flexible booking and cancellation terms.
“As we are entering a period when domestic travel is fully permitted, we will be able to monitor and create best practices, readiness of sites and infrastructure to be open to outside markets,” Ben Yosef said. “This is a good development for everyone as we can keep our sites, hotels and attractions active, well-maintained and ready as the world begins to look at the ‘day after.’”
Airports in Tel Aviv and Eilat are operating with a limited number of daily flights — reserved for Israeli citizens entering the country (no foreigners are being admitted yet). As the country prepares to open to more destinations, there will be specific entry points and airports, such as Ben Gurion International Airport, that will perform health checks on incoming passengers.
Israel is still in the early phases of reopening to travelers, so not all public areas are open yet.
As of May 4, parks and nature reserves are open for local visitors, as well as shopping malls and other stores — contingent upon following the Purple Badge guidelines. Museums will open on May 17, followed by swimming pools and amusement parks at the end of May. Theaters, cinemas and restaurants will reopen by mid-June.
As we are entering a period when domestic travel is fully permitted, we will be able to monitor and create best practices, readiness of sites and infrastructure to be open to outside markets.
Beaches are also open to the public. Currently without lifeguards, beaches should only be used for exercise.
Israel’s efforts to limit the spread of the virus has allowed the country to begin reopening. Already, Israeli HMOs have conducted a nationwide survey to determine the prevalence of antibodies to COVID-19.
“Israel was one of the first countries to identify the COVID‐19 threat and acted swiftly to make sure we encapsulated and treated affected people,” Ben Yosef said. “We made the unpopular but critical decision to close our borders to foreign travels and quickly facilitated a plan to assist tourists in leaving the country. Guidelines were rapidly put in place restricting the Israeli public from further spreading the virus to enable the country to flatten the curve.”
Amid the crisis, Israel has been supporting the travel industry by hosting webinars with experts and promoting Israeli culture and food in hopes of inspiring travelers.
“Even as the borders are closed for travel, you can still travel to Israel from your home,” Ben Yosef said.
You can follow along with updates and visuals on the Israel Ministry of Tourism’s social media platforms under the hashtag #InspiredByIsrael. The ministry has also been assisting travel advisors and tour operators by joining webinars or other media briefings to share updates.
Although the country does not yet have an official timeline for when it will fully reopen to international travelers, the goal is to begin early-stage reopening well before the end of the year. Ben Yosef says the country is optimistic, and is looking forward to being able to welcome back tourists once again.
“Though the COVID‐19 crisis cannot be fully compared to any other, Israel and the tourism industry are no strangers to crisis‐related setbacks,” Ben Yosef said. “Our hotels, tour operators, guides and service providers are resilient and know how to weather any storm. While we may not know when or how this will end, we do know that our travel industry will be waiting at the ready to welcome tourists back to our special destination as they have done time and time again.”
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Read more from TravelAge West about the COVID-19 outbreak.