Dubai: Tourism in the UAE and Israel will see a boom with thousands of visitors expected to travel between two countries in the coming months. This was shared by Yoel Razvozov, Israeli Minister of Tourism, who arrived in Dubai on Monday to officially inaugurate the Israel Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, which will take place on Thursday.
Razvozov’s arrival marks the first visit of an Israeli Minister of Tourism to the UAE. Aside from touring the Expo, Razvozov is set to meet leading managers in the tourism and aviation industry in the UAE.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, the Israeli minister said: “The mere fact that there is an Israel Pavilion in the UAE will make our case stand out. Our pavilion will definitely attract lots of people from different countries. I’m sure that after their first visit, many will want to visit Israel.”
Impressed with the UAE
Razvozov continued: “As for the Israelis, since the signing of Abraham Accords, thousands have visited the UAE. Their interest in the country is genuine and they come back impressed by what they’ve seen. We live in the same geographical zone – the flight takes only a couple of hours - so I’m confident that we will see even bigger numbers of tourists.”
Razvozov, however, did not put exact figures on how many Israeli tourists are expected to visit the UAE during the Expo. “It is quite hard to predict the numbers. But I believe there will be hundreds of businessmen coming to explore business opportunities. As for regular Israelis – as I have said – I believe there were thousands of Israeli tourists visiting the UAE and there will definitely be more.”
He underlined that there is a vast potential between the two countries in various spheres. “Our goal, from both sides, is to implement this potential. We are just at the beginning of the process, but no doubts our mutual future is promising and bright.”
‘Open tent’ pavilion
Israel Pavilion, located at Expo’s Opportunity District between the pavilions of India and Italy, is full of symbolism. It is designed as an ‘open tent’ without walls to signify openness, diversity and inclusiveness. Creators of the Israel Pavilion said the concept is meant “to showcase Israel as an open and diverse society that provides equal rights to all its inhabitants. It is also an open invitation to collaborate and address various world challenges”.
Officials said visitors to the pavilion will be taken through a journey of Israel’s past, present and future – in particular highlighting Israel’s innovation in agriculture, water, medicine, communications and cyber-technology.
Razvozov thanked the UAE for welcoming Israel at the Expo. “Having an Israeli Pavilion on UAE soil just a year after signing the Abraham Accords is a big step forward in relations between our countries. The Abraham Accords are unprecedented and represent a new chapter in the history of peace process in the Middle East. The decision to sign the accords was a result of courage and broad vision. I’d like to praise and thank the UAE and Bahrain leadership for that,” he said.
“Peace is maintained through mutual learning and recognition between the common people. In this context, tourists from both Israel and the UAE are building the bridges, human bridges for the peace. I do invite tourists from UAE to come and explore our beautiful country and the warmth of its people.”
Razvozov said Israel will use the Expo as a viable platform to attract tourists from around the world to Israel. He added that the Israeli Ministry of Tourism “has taken significant steps to position Israel as a top destination for UAE travellers”.
Razvozov added: “Furthermore, we are physically inspecting the sites which we think will be of interest to tourists from the UAE, building itineraries for future guests, instructing hoteliers and tour guides on how to correctly host the UAE tourists.”
According to Razvozov, Israel is expected to welcome around 100,000 visitors from the UAE annually “once borders between the two countries are fully opened, and travel restrictions due to COVID-19 are lifted”.
Country of contrasts
Razvozov shared with Gulf News what tourists can expect when they visit Israel for the first time. “Israel is a country of contrasts, where the East meets the West and thousands years of history come across young innovative cities. Here, you can taste the food of many cultures and enjoy both street food and hot cuisine, both of which will be of top quality and taste. Israel is versatile country one can visit several times and still find new and exciting sights to see.
“First time visitors should definitely stop in Jerusalem, an ancient city full of history and the holiest sites of Abrahamic religions. Here you will see the colourful Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters and pass through narrow and picturesque streets full of life and joy,” he said. Attracting Gulf tourists
Razvozov noted: “There are many great attractions specifically for Gulf visitors. Even though we don’t have a lot of experience with Muslim tourists yet, we serve as a perfect destination due to our great similarities. We have many halal food restaurants, as well as Kosher ones, which are in fact halal also. Additionally, we have many Arabic-speaking tour guides, and tourism sites that relate to the Islamic religion and culture, including Al Jazar Mosque in Acre, Hassan Beck Mosque in Tel Aviv and most certainly, Al Aqsa Mosque.”