Press briefing_Orit Farkash-Hacohen_screenshot by Angel Tesorero-1608125821680
Israel Tourism Minister Orit Farkash Hacohen addressing he online tourism forum with UAE on Wednesday

Dubai: Israel is preparing to welcome tourists from the UAE and when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is over, the Middle Eastern country on the Mediterranean Sea is expecting to host around 100,000 tourists from the UAE every year.

This was revealed by Israel’s Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen as she addressed the first virtual UAE-Israel tourism forum hosted by officials from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism on Wednesday.

“Israel is preparing to welcome tourists from the UAE and will be adhering to the advice of health experts to ensure it remains a safe destination in terms of COVID-19 exposure,” she said.

At the onset of the online forum, Farkash-Hacohen emphasised: “Tourism is key to building lasting peace between countries, and Israel looks forward to welcoming travelers from the UAE. I am certain visitors from the Emirates and other countries will enjoy the unique blend of this new and near destination.”

“Israel is where thousands of years of history meet modern day life. It is the home of Tel Aviv and the StartUp Nation and of ancient Caesarea and the magnificent Dead Sea. Israel’s unique religious sites are holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, with Jerusalem at their centre. Alongside the sites, visitors will enjoy the people, culture, art, music and culinary delights,” she added.

25 weekly flights beginning January

Farkash-Hacohen is also expecting there will be 25 weekly flights between UAE and Israel beginning next month following the normalisation of bilateral ties between the UAE and Israel after the signing Abraham Accord in August.

In a statement sent to Gulf News, she noted flydubai has already started to operate flights between Dubai and Tel Aviv, with the low-cost carrier operating 14 flights a week offering a double daily service between Dubai International and Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airports.

Airlines like Emirates and Etihad have also announced direct flights to Israel next year while Israel’s Israir was the first Israeli airline to operate a commercial flight to Dubai followed by El Al Airline. Arkia Airline has also announced to start daily flights between Dubai and Tel Aviv from January 2021. Moreover, an aviation agreement was signed that will allow up to 112 weekly flights between the two countries.

Farkash-Hacohen also noted “the visa-free entry” for citizens of the two countries will take effect by end of this month or early January – and this will reduce the bureaucracy when visiting the two countries. The UAE and Israel signed a mutual visa waiver agreement, enabling Emirati and Israeli travellers to obtain visa-on-arrival.

Natural splendour and ancient history

Farkash-Hacohen noted visitors from the UAE to Israel “will enjoy a unique combination of natural splendour and ancient history”.

With great weather virtually all year round, tourists can enjoy the great outdoors, take in colourful markets, cutting-edge culture and entertainment and an exciting culinary scene,” she elaborated.

Farkash-Hacohen cited in particular that visitors can benefit from the “healing powers of the Dead Sea”, a shortlist candidate for the world’s seven natural wonders and the lowest place on the Earth at 434 meters approximately below sea level.

“The Dead Sea area (which is just an hour’s drive south of Jerusalem) features several attractions including natural healing spas, hiking trails and restaurants. The north of Israel also has hidden treasures of natural beauty from Haifa to the Sea of Galilee, in a region filled with historical significance,” she added.

Green and red zones

At the moment, however, Farkash-Hacohen noted Israel is still limiting the influx of tourists due to the pandemic. “We grade countries based on their level of COVID-19 infection,” she explained.

According to Israel International Air Travel advisory, “isolation is not mandated if someone comes from a ‘green’ location, as long as he/she did not stay in a ‘red’ location within 14 days prior to arrival in Israel.”

Tavelers returning from ‘red’ countries (those with high COVID-19 infections) are required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in Israel. The Israel Health Ministry, meanwhile, currently lists the UAE as a ‘green’ area.

The Israel Tourism Minister also shared her country is all set to is to participate in the much-awaited Dubai Expo 2020 and upcoming Arabian Travel Mart, where their “strategy is to focus Israel as a leisure and a MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions) destination through various B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to customer) activities.