Coronavirus outbreak threatens Israeli tourism

"There is drastic decline in bookings for East Asia, and that's understandable – but bookings in general have come to a standstill, even for Passover flights to Verona or Cyprus."

Ben Gurion International Airport - Terminal 3 (photo credit: DEROR AVI)
Ben Gurion International Airport - Terminal 3
(photo credit: DEROR AVI)
The deadly coronavirus outbreak has seen serious declines in tourism to Israel, Globes has reported.
Since first surfacing during December in Wuhan, in China's Hubei province, the coronavirus has spread across much of the world and infected over 67,000 people at the time of writing. As such, the tourism industry has taken a huge hit, especially regarding tourists going to and from East Asia.
However, according to Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association director-general Yossi Fattal, tourism to and from Israel is facing a drop of 50% to 60%.
Some of these seem to be cancellations from groups that had already booked trips to the Jewish state – including from Europe. Currently, these cancellations are only a marginal 10%, but as Fattal explained, this reflects a global trend.
"We're immediately holding emergency discussions, in which we'll talk about how to deal with the possibility of mass cancellations," he said. "The market is in shock. We're getting dozens of calls from groups in Europe and the US. We're worried about the cancellations, and also worried about the financial health of suppliers in Israel, given the cancellations of services that our partners abroad [tourism wholesalers] bought for the groups. It's 10% cancellations now, but it's obvious that this will increase."
Travel agents are in shock, too.
"Travelers who purchased a vacation in Warsaw are calling me, and they are worried," one agent told Globes. "The market in Israel is affected by the panic shown by the Health Ministry.
"There is a drastic decline in bookings for East Asia, and that's understandable – but bookings in general have come to a standstill, even for Passover flights to Verona or Cyprus."
Naturally, these cancellations will hit travel to and from East Asia the hardest. The timing is especially poor for Japan, as direct El Al flights between Tel Aviv and Tokyo are set to begin in March. However, due to "the warnings by the Health Ministry... the public is panicking, and not taking risks on East Asian countries."
This comes as 15 Israelis are stuck quarantined on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan, which has been barred from entry into the country due to the cases of coronavirus detected on board. Currently, 285 cases have been confirmed on the ship, the second-largest concentration of coronavirus cases outside of China. On Sunday, it was announced that three Israelis have been confirmed to be infected.
What's also notable is that many of these cancellations happen at the last minute. This, an agent explained, is because travelers know that they won't be able to get refunds for their flights, so they prefer to wait until the last moment.
A new record for tourism to Israel was broken in 2019 with 4.55 million tourists visiting the country. This reflected a continued increase in tourism year after year, and this trend was forecast to continue into 2020. However, even though not a single case of the coronavirus has been reported in Israel, the outbreak may ruin any plans of breaking the record once again.


Tags Tourism asia