The Health Ministry's red list has crippled the tourism industry

In the wake of constant changes to the red list, travel agencies around the country are suffering severe damage.

el al plane (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
el al plane
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

The government recently committed to updating on a daily basis the list of “red” countries (meaning those with a high number of COVID cases), severely limiting Israelis’ ability to travel to and from those designated locations.

The impact that this move has had on the flight industry is palpable.

“If you want to summarize it in one word, it’s a disaster. If you want to summarize it in two words, it’s a f***ing disaster,” said Terry Kessel, managing director of Diesenhaus Ramat Hasharon. “The Health Ministry and the guidelines that they’ve adopted are completely out of line.”

Kessel explained that in the wake of the decision, travel agencies around the country are suffering severe damage.

“The financial losses for the travel agencies are huge. All my office has been doing is canceling. We had a group of 450 people headed for Dubai... everything has been canceled.” These cancellations, he added, must all be filed manually, adding a huge bureaucratic headache on top of the lost income. “We’re in deep s***.”

 Travelers exit the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic testing area at Ben Gurion International Airport as Israel imposes new restrictions on November 28, 2021. (credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS) Travelers exit the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic testing area at Ben Gurion International Airport as Israel imposes new restrictions on November 28, 2021. (credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

The agencies aren’t the only ones feeling the burn, however. On the day of the announcement, the stock price for Israel’s primary airline El Al (TLV: ELAL) began to plummet, starting at an already meager NIS 271 to its current position at under NIS 210, representing a decrease of over 22% in 10 days.

In a global statement, United Airlines said it is “continuing to see strong demand for domestic holiday travel and expect more passengers to travel during the year-end holidays than during Thanksgiving.” United is based in the US, which had not yet been deemed red by the Health Ministry at the time of the statement’s issuance. On Tuesday, however, Israel moved the country to the red list.

“We cannot comment on demand for specific routes, but when international travel restrictions and requirements are put into place it has a dampening effect on demand and we have seen that in some places internationally," said American Airlines when asked to comment. "But, in talking to our corporate customers, we know there will be strong demand for business travel as offices reopen. International demand will come back as well, as evidenced by what happens almost overnight when restrictions are lifted. Back in October when foreign nationals were allowed to travel to the U.S., demand picked up significantly to the largest places we fly.”