According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, a record number of 4.5 million tourists visited Israel in 2019, accounting for an income of US $7.6 billion – 5.9% of the gross domestic product.
Expectations were high that 2020 would be a bumper year for incoming tourism. Since last March, many people, especially those connected to tourism, have seen their livelihoods disappear overnight. In addition to the near collapse of the airline and hotel industry, local tour guides have been made redundant with incoming travel currently at a standstill.
I have been guiding in Jerusalem for more than 20 years through good times and bad. Tourism has always been directly affected by regional conflicts, but nothing prepared us for the COVID-19 pandemic.